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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Psalm 118; The Suffering King and the Help of Yah

04//07_Psalm 118; The Suffering King and the Help of Yah; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190407_psalm-118.mp3

Intro:

We are coming up on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Next week is Palm Sunday.

Last week we saw an echo of Psalm 118:17-18 in 2 Corinthians 6:9. This Psalm is connected directly with Palm Sunday, the day Jesus presented himself to Israel as their king, riding in to the city on a donkey while the crowds shouted ‘Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

Today I want to open up this Psalm, to see how it points us to Jesus.

Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11 and Luke 20:17 record Jesus quoting Psalm 118:22 after his parable of the tenants who killed the Master’s Son, rebuking the leaders of Israel for rejecting him.

Matthew 23:38-39 and Luke 13:35 record Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem’s rejection of him, and he quotes Psalm 118:26 promising the religious leaders that they will not see him again until he is welcomed with the words of this Psalm; ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ We see this fulfilled quite literally in Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9-10, Luke 19:37-38 and John 12:13

Jesus takes this Psalm and applies it to himself. He uses it to challenge people, particularly his enemies, to ask who he is.

Who Is The King?

Some psalms have an original superscription, sometimes including musical notes, the author and the circumstances. In the Hebrew text this is counted as the first verse. For example, Psalm 56 says “To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.”

Psalm 118 has none; it is anonymous, and it points to no specific circumstance that occasioned its writing.

The Psalm begins and ends with a responsive chorus of thanksgiving to the Lord for his unending covenant love, then it tells the story of a king, surrounded by enemies, in great distress, who cried out to YHWH for help, and YHWH became his salvation. This king then returned victorious to the city and then the temple, requesting the gates be opened to him, and he receives a victor’s welcome, culminating in worship of YHWH in the courts of the temple.

Who was this anonymous king, and what battle was this through which the Lord became salvation?

Egyptian Hallel

This is the final Psalm of what is known as the Egyptian Hallel (or Praise), traditionally sung at the 3 pilgrim feasts; Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; at Passover, Psalm 113-114 were sung before the meal, and 115-118 after.

These Psalms are known as the Egyptian Hallel because they echo the Lord’s rescue of Israel from Egypt, leading them all the way to Mount Zion. There are echoes in this Psalm of the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, after the Lord conquered his enemies and brought deliverance to his people through the Red Sea.

Responsive Thanksgiving

The Psalm opens and closes with a vocal affirmation of thanksgiving. The speaker begins, and then calls for the people of Israel to respond, then the priests to respond, then all to respond together. We will try to do this this morning. You in the center section will be Israel, you on the sides will be the house of Aaron.

Psalm 118 [ESV]

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

4 Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

The Suffering King and The Help of the Lord

Then the king tells of his deliverance: I will read from the Lexham English Bible translation, which retains the proper names of God; YHWH and its shortened form Yah.

Psalm 118 [LEB]

5 Out of my distress I called to Yah.

Yah answered me, setting me in a broad place.

6 Yahweh is for me; I do not fear.

What can mere humans do to me?

7 Yahweh is for me as my helper,

and so I will look in triumph on those who hate me.

8 It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to trust in humans.

9 It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to trust princes.

10 All nations surrounded me.

In the name of Yahweh I opposed them indeed.

11 They surrounded me; yes, they surrounded me.

In the name of Yahweh I opposed them indeed.

12 They surrounded me like bees; they were extinguished like a fire of thorns.

In the name of Yahweh I opposed them indeed.

13 You pushed me hard to make me fall, but Yahweh helped me.

The king is in a place of distress or affliction, being pushed hard; he repeats four times that he is surrounded, surrounded by the nations. This is no local conflict, no skirmish with one enemy; this sounds more like Psalm 2, where

Psalm 2:1 …the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHWH and against his Anointed [Messiah]…

He says that they surrounded him like bees; countless, close, persistent, angry, painful, chaotic, uncontrollable.

But he trusts in YHWH. YHWH is for me; I do not fear. What can man do to me? We hear this from the lips of David in Psalm 56

Psalms 56:4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? …9 …This I know, that God is for me. …11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Paul says in Romans 8

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

The Lord is a more sure refuge than alliances or military strength. The king testifies that although he was surrounded by nations, in the name of YHWH he cut them off; they were extinguished like a fire of thorns. Dry thorns burn furiously, crackling loudly, and produce raging heat, but they burn out quickly. Thorns are a reminder of the curse on all creation because of our sin. The fire, quickly kindled, will be quickly extinguished.

YHWH’s Valiant Right Hand

He continues in verse 14

Psalm 118 [LEB]

14 Yah is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

15 The sound of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;

the right hand of Yahweh has done valiantly.

16 The right hand of Yahweh has exalted;

the right hand of Yahweh has done valiantly.

17 I will not die but live,

and tell of the works of Yah.

18 Yah has disciplined me severely,

but he did not consign me to death.

Verse 14 is an exact quote of Exodus 15:2a in the song of Moses: “Yah is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation”, and

verses 15-16 echo Exodus 15:6 ‘the right hand of Yahweh has done valiantly’; ‘Yahweh, your right hand is glorious in power; Yahweh, your right hand destroyed the enemy.’

The deliverance belongs to YHWH. He is the strength of the king, and he receives the worship of the king. Notice the connection between God’s salvation and songs of rejoicing. One naturally flows from the other. To experience God’s strength and salvation is to have a heart that overflows with rejoicing and song, telling of the works of Yah.

Open the Gates to The Righteous King

In verse 19, the king has returned to the walls of the city, and he demands that the gates be opened to him.

Psalm 118 [LEB]

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,

that I may enter through them and give thanks to Yah.

We see righteousness as a theme here. They are the gates of righteousness; Those who enter must be righteous. In Revelation 22 we read:

Revelation 22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Who is this king of glory? Psalm 24

Psalm 118 is anonymous, leaving us asking ‘who is this king?’ Psalm 24 may give us some help. It begins by introducing YHWH as creator and owner of all the earth, and then asks:

[LEB] Psalm 24:3 Who may ascend the mountain of Yahweh? And who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who is innocent of hands and pure of heart, who does not lift up his soul to falseness, and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from Yahweh, and justice from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the sort of those who seek him, those who seek your face, even Jacob. Selah

Then the gates are addressed, and the question is asked of them:

[LEB] Psalm 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates, and rise up, O ancient doorways, that the king of glory may enter. 8 Who is the king of glory? Yahweh, strong and mighty; Yahweh, mighty in war! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift up, O ancient doorways, that the king of glory may enter. 10 Who is the king of glory? Yahweh of hosts, He is the king of glory! Selah

The gates of the city, and now the gate of the temple stands open to receive the righteous King, the king of glory.

Psalm 118 [LEB]

20 This is the gate of Yahweh,

through which the righteous will enter.

Personal Thanks for Personal Rescue

Now we see the king in the courts of the temple, addressing the Lord directly, giving thanks. The introductory call to give thanks to the Lord for he is good has become a personal thanks because of a personal experience of rescue.

Psalm 118 [LEB]

21 I will give thanks to you for you have answered me,

and you have become my salvation.

YHWH is good and his steadfast love endures forever, but now you have answered me; you have become my salvation. God is good, but we must personally experience his goodness. Have you experienced the steadfast love of the Lord so that you can say ‘you have become my salvation’?

The Rejected Cornerstone

Verse 22 is the verse Jesus quoted about himself in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and it is quoted about him by Peter in Acts 4, and in Romans 9, Ephesians 2, and 1 Peter 2.

Psalm 118 [LEB]

22 The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

23 This is from Yahweh; it is wonderful in our eyes.

24 This is the day Yahweh has worked; let us rejoice and be glad in him.

Jesus the promised king was rejected even by the builders, the leaders of Israel. The nations that surrounded him included his own people. But the one who was despised and rejected of men has become the foundation stone ‘in whom the whole building, joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, …built up together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit’ (Eph.2:20-22); the ‘living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious’ on whom we ‘ like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1Pet.2:4-7).

Hosanna!

In verse 25 the congregation, brought in to the courts of the Lord through the merits of the righteous king address YHWH for salvation, and bless the coming king.

Psalm 118 [LEB]

25 O Yahweh, please save; O Yahweh, please grant success.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh.

We bless you from the house of Yahweh.

27 Yahweh is God, and he has given us light.

Bind the festal sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.

This Psalm provided the vocabulary for the crowds as they cast their cloaks and branches in the road before the King who came humbly, riding on a donkey.

The Psalm climaxes with sacrificial imagery. Derek Kidner writes:

What those who took part in such a ceremony could never have foreseen was that it would one day suddenly enact itself on the road to Jerusalem: unrehearsed, unliturgical and with explosive force. In that week when God’s realities broke through His symbols and shadows (cf. Heb.10:1), the horns of the altar became the arms of the cross, and the ‘festival’ itself found fulfillment in ‘Christ our passover’ (1 Cor. 5:7, AV).” [Kidner, p.415]

Some sacrificial animals no doubt were difficult to handle may have necessitated binding them with cords. But Jesus said:

John 10:17 …I lay down my life… 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down voluntarily….

Jesus bound himself to the cross with cords of love (Hosea 11:4).

A Personal and Public Response of Praise

Verse 28 completes the quotation from Exodus 15 which began in verse 14, but in a more personal and direct way:

Exodus 15:2 [LEB] Yah is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him—the God of my father—and I will exalt him.

[LEB] Psalm 118:28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you.

You are my God; I will exalt you.

The deliverance from Egypt points to our greater deliverance from a greater enemy by one greater than Moses; our deliverance out of greater bondage and lead by a greater king to a greater promised land and into a greater sanctuary.

The Psalm concludes with the refrain with which it opened:

[LEB] Psalm 118:29 Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good,

for his loyal love is forever.

Let’s say this together:

[ESV] Psalm 118:29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever!

***

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

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April 8, 2019 Posted by | occasional, podcast, Psalms | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving and One Another

11/25 Thanksgiving and One Another; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181125_thanksgiving-one-another.mp3

The Necessity of Giving Thanks Always

Last time we talked about thanksgiving, the necessity of giving thanks, our obligation to give thanks to the Lord; we owe it to him because he is worthy, because every good gift comes from him, because we were made to give him praise. Romans 1 says:

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.

…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.

A failure to honor God as God and give thanks to him is sin deserving of the wrath of God.

We looked at the positive command in 1 Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

God’s will is that we rejoice, we pray, we give thanks always and for everything. To fail to give God thanks is to quench the Spirit who lives in every believer.

So how are you doing? How did you do this thanksgiving week at rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances?

I hope you did better than I did. I had some great moments of thanksgiving. But I also got annoyed, frustrated, irritated, impatient, discouraged. I yelled at the kids. I said unkind words to my computer. I was short with my wife. My week was not characterized by rejoicing always. It was not ceaselessly prayerful. I failed to give thanks in all circumstances. And this was thanksgiving week!

I wish I could stand before you as a model of the perfect Christian. I want to do better. I want to be better. But here’s the problem. If I could tell you all about how wondrously thankful and joyful and prayerful I was this week, that wouldn’t encourage you, it would likely discourage you. And (if it were true) I would be able to feel pretty good about myself. I would feel successful. Maybe I could even look down on some of you who clearly weren’t as spiritual as I was this week. And that’s not the gospel. That’s not in line with the gospel. The gospel reads that I can’t. I’m not good enough. I will never be good enough. But if I lean into Jesus, he is good enough, and he will carry me. In him I am good enough, yet it is not I but Christ living in me.

So how do we genuinely seek to honor God and give him thanks? How do we seek to obey the commands to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances? How do we take these commands seriously and not use the gospel as an excuse for our own laziness; if my failure puts the grace of God on display, then let us ‘continue in sin that grace may abound? May it never be!’ And how do we pursue obedience in such a way that it does not result in pride?

Abounding In Thanksgiving Through The Gospel

I found some help in the letter to the Colossians. Colossians 2:6-7 says:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Here we find more thanksgiving language; we are to abound in thanksgiving. I want my life to be characterized by abundant thanksgiving. How do we abound in thanksgiving?

In these verses, Paul explicitly points us back to the gospel. He points us to what we were taught, he points to the faith, what we believe, the content of the gospel. He brings us back to our receiving Christ Jesus the Lord. In the previous verse he rejoiced in ‘the firmness of your faith in Christ.’

The gospel, the faith is what I am depending on to rescue me from the consequences of my own rebellion. The gospel tells me that I am not good enough, that I am actually worse than I ever would have imagined, but that Jesus bore the wages of my sin in his body on the tree, that he takes me as his own, that he clothes me in his righteousness, that I am accepted, not because of anything I have done, but because of everything he has done for me. We receive Jesus as a gift undeserved, freely given. Colossians 2:6 tells us we are to walk in him in the same way we received him. We live the Christian life depending completely on his work on our behalf, receiving it as a gift undeserved, freely given. We receive Jesus by faith; depending completely on him. We walk the Christian walk by faith, depending completely on him. We must be rooted in Jesus. He must be the source we draw life from. We must be built upon Jesus. He must be be our only foundation. We must be established in our dependence on Jesus. This is the good news we were taught. This is the gospel we were given. And this is the gospel air we breathe. This is the grace in which we live and move and have our being. We received Jesus as a gift undeserved, depending completely on him. We live the Christian life in total dependence on him, receiving everything we need freely from him.

Obligation and Gratitude

And we say thank you in response to a gift we have been given. I say thank you to the waiter who fills my water at the restaurant as a courtesy. But I don’t have to say thank you. It’s his job. He is not doing me a favor, he gets paid to keep my water full. If he doesn’t, I could complain to the manager, and he could lose his job. I am under no obligation to thank him. He hasn’t really given me anything.

But when we really get the gospel, that we are undeserving, that God is under no obligation to us, and yet God is overwhelmingly generous to us in Jesus Christ, we understand we are truly in his debt and under obligation to gratitude. Abounding in thanksgiving is the right response to the gospel.

Our English word ‘thank’ is related to the word ‘to think,’ thought or thoughtfulness, to think well of. This fails to capture the depth of the original. There was an expression I remember hearing when I was growing up, that I haven’t heard in a while. It was used as an exclamation of surprise or amazement, but taken literally, it captures the essence of the Biblical concept of thanksgiving. It was ‘Good gracious! or ‘Goodness gracious!’ That would be a good literal translation of the Greek word ‘εὐχάριστος‘ – good gracious. It is good that God is gracious to me. God’s grace is good, it is pleasant, it is enjoyable. I see that I am undeserving, and he is under no obligation, and yet he freely gives. That is grace, and I am grateful for his good grace.

So what does this look like practically? How do I abound in gratitude? First, receive Jesus as a gift. He is God’s grace to you. Be rooted in him; draw day by day your life sustenance from him. Be built on him as your only foundation. Be established in dependence on him. Walk day to day in dependence on him. And remember, you will never deserve what he has freely given, so even your failures are a reminder of the goodness of his grace. So receive his grace, and let your heart overflow with gratitude.

Gratitude is a Community Project

I understand this, but still I struggle to apply it, to do it, to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. I tend to lose sight of the grace of God, to let other things cloud my view. Paul understands this, and so he gives us more help in the next chapter. Colossians 3 begins by reminding us that we have been raised with Christ, and so we ought to set our minds on the things that are above. We are to put to death our earthly passions and desires, and to put on our new self which is being renewed. Because we are chosen by God, because we are holy, because we are beloved, we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love. In verse 15 he says:

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

If you notice, all these things have to do with body life, interacting with others. We are to bear with one another. We are to forgive one another. We are called to love one another, be at peace with one another, live in harmony with one another. We were called in one body. We are called into the body of Christ, the church which he purchased with his own blood. Thankfulness is a community project.

And it is rooted in God’s gracious forgiveness. Verse 13 tells us “…if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” The word ‘forgive’ here is ‘χαρίζομαι‘ to freely, graciously give or forgive. It is part of the root of the word thankful ‘εὐχάριστος‘, good gracious. The way we deal with one another, especially when we are wronged by another is determined by how the Lord has forgiven you. And our gracious forgiveness of one another is an expression of God’s forgiveness to us.

So when we are wronged, we are reminded of how we have wronged God, and how he graciously forgave us. And we are stirred to gratitude. And when we have wronged a brother or sister, and they extend us grace and forgiveness, we are reminded of the gracious forgiveness God has given to us, and we are stirred to gratitude. We might respond ‘good gracious!’

You see how being rooted in the gospel works itself out in community life and reminds us to gratitude.

Thankfulness and Singing

But Paul doesn’t stop here. He goes further to describe what church life, life in the body of Christ should look like.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,

The word is central. We must have Christ’s words, the words about Christ, the gospel living in us. Copiously. Abundantly. Richly. Read, meditate, memorize, let it saturate and spill out. And we are to use the gospel living in us to remind each other. To to teach one another, to correct or reprove one another. We need each other!

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Part of what we do as a body of believers in Jesus is sing together. One way we teach and admonish one another is by psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. We sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God.

It is interesting (we don’t have time to do it now) to trace out thanksgiving in the Psalms. Of course, the Psalms themselves are songs, but repeatedly in the Psalms, we are told that thanksgiving and singing go together.

Psalm 57:9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.

One way to express gratitude to the Lord for his good gifts is to sing together to him. This is public proclamation of God’s goodness; among the peoples, among the nations, among generations, to the children, in the assembly. There is something about singing that is participatory; it includes people, draws them in. There is something powerful about gathering together with other people and singing truth aloud together that is powerful. It’s memorable. It sticks with you in ways the spoken word doesn’t. It reminds us to be thankful. We need each other!

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thanksgiving and the Spirit

I’d like to look at one more thing before we pull this all together.

We started by looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, which put giving thanks together with the work of the Spirit of God, indicating that a failure to give thanks is to quench the Spirit who lives in every believer.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

We could take this merely as a random collection of disconnected thoughts, or we could see a connection. I think Ephesians 5 helps us to see the connection. Ephesians 5:18-20 is a restatement of several of the themes we have been looking at in Colossians 3.

Ephesians 5:18 … but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This rejoicing together in song, this praying, this giving thanks always and for everything is evidence of continually being filled with the Spirit.

Romans 8:9 (along with 1 Cor.2:12 and 6:19, among others) teach us that every believer has the Spirit of God living in them. But here in Ephesians 5 is a command to believers who have the Spirit living inside, who have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph.1:3), to continually be being filled with the Spirit.

So although every believer has the Holy Spirit living inside, believers can quench that Holy Spirit, and they can seek to be filled with the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is Spirit empowering or Spirit enabling to do something. In the Old Testament, the craftsmen were filled with the Spirit and given wisdom and skill to create the tabernacle and its furnishings. In the New Testament, the filling of the Spirit is most often connected with speaking, celebrating or proclaiming the good news.

Here in Ephesians 5, the filling of the Spirit is directly connected with one another ministry and focused on giving thanks.

We recognize that gratitude that pleases the Lord must come from a heart filled with the Spirit of God. Gratitude is a response to God’s free and gracious forgiveness found in the good news. It is dependence, drawing life from and standing firmly on the Lord Jesus Christ. And it happens in and is encouraged by community, in the body, with one another.

This is Triune thanksgiving; being filled with the Spirit, we give thanks to God the Father always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

***

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

November 27, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Necessity of Thanksgiving

11/18 Necessity of Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181118_thanksgiving-necessity.mp3

The History of Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a great holiday, and not just because I like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry jelly and pumpkin pie.

Our thanksgiving holiday has a rich history. After the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in October of 1777, the Continental Congress recommended that a national day of thanksgiving be observed. This is the text of that proclamation.

For as much as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, Independence and Peace: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

It was Abraham Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 during the civil war that was the beginning of our annual thanksgiving holiday.

His proclamation points us to “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.

He invites us to observe it “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. …offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings…”

Thanksgiving and praise is “justly due to Him.” The earlier proclamation began by stating that “it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received.”

The authors of these proclamations recognized something very important. Thanksgiving is justly due to God. It is our indispensable duty to give thanks for benefits received. It is wrong to fail to give thanks to him.

Thanksgiving is Serious Business

You see, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. We commit sins like lying and stealing and cheating, slander and hatred and lust. But we also sin by omitting what we ought to do.

Romans 1 shows us just how serious this is.

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.

…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.

Do you hear in these verses why the wrath of God is revealed from heaven? A failure to acknowledge God and give him thanks unleashes the wrath of God against humanity! Thanksgiving is our duty. And we are so prone to forget the source from which our blessings come. We are “habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.”

Official Thanksgiving

Because giving thanks to God is such an important duty, and because we are so prone to negligence in it, at pivotal moments in the history of the nation of Israel, its leaders appointed people to give thanks as their full time job.

When David brought the ark of the covenant in to Jerusalem, we are told:

1 Chronicles 16:4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. 8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

…36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. 37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required,

…41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whose ‘heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord,’ (2Chr.17:6) when a great multitude came against him in battle, he sought the Lord for help, and

2 Chronicles 20:21 …he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Hezekiah, king of Judah, who ‘did what was right in the eyes of the LORD’ (2Chr.29:2) restored the worship of God to the temple in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 31:2 And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the LORD and to give thanks and praise.

After the Babylonian captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah were sent to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

When the walls of the city were rebuilt, Nehemiah appointed:

Nehemiah 12:24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.

…27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

…31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. …

Thanksgiving was serious business, and it was taken seriously. But why the official appointment of people to thanksgiving? Shouldn’t all the people give thanks from the heart? Are they hiring paid professionals to do the thanksgiving for them so they don’t have to worry about it?

Clearly that was not the intent. They served as worship leaders, to lead all the people in giving thanks. This was a strategic way to ensure that the giving of thanks to God was never neglected. This was set in place as a reminder for all the people, because we are prone to forget.

Are there any reminders you have established in your life and routine to encourage you to give thanks? The weekly rhythm of gathering for worship is one simple way. Gather with God’s people week by week to acknowledge him, to give him thanks. Establish daily rhythms of thanksgiving together at meals, in the mornings, at bedtime. Write a note on the bathroom mirror. Set a reminder on your phone, or get a prayer app. Recognize the importance of giving thanks to God for all his good gifts, and find something that works for you to remind you regularly.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a command.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God’s will for you is that you give thanks. ‘But you don’t know what’s going on in my life right now. You don’t understand my struggles. I really don’t know if I have anything to be thankful for.’ Give thanks in all circumstances. In all circumstances. Regardless of your circumstances or mine, God is still God, and he deserves to be praised.

Psalm 9 says:

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

This is a choice, a decision. I choose to give thanks. God has given me the ability to determine to give thanks or to neglect giving thanks. I will give thanks.

I will give thanks with my whole heart. Not merely out of a sense of duty or obligation; it is that, but it must be more. My heart must be in it. Thanksgiving must flow out of a heart captured by the great beauty and worth of God. Thanksgiving is not to be half hearted, but whole hearted. Half hearted praise is not praise. I am to love the Lord with heart and soul and mind and strength. Understand, this is not something we can muster. ‘I’m not really feeling it, but it is my duty, so I will try really hard to give thanks with my whole heart.’ That doesn’t work. Stop looking at yourself. Remember, we are ‘habitually insensible; we are prone to forget’. Thanksgiving is the natural and normal response to perceiving the goodness of God to us. If you don’t see it, you won’t feel thankful. When you see it, when you perceive it, thanksgiving naturally and authentically flows out. More on how to to this in just a minute.

I will give thanks to the LORD. It matters who we direct our thanks to. It is not fate or fortune, it is not my lucky stars. There is a personal being, YHWH, who is sovereign over all circumstances. He is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, good. He is love. He is pursuing relationship with me. If I give you a gift, and you go thank Suzie, than just isn’t right. God is the giver of all good gifts, and he is the one we ought to thank.

Recounting God’s Wonderful Deeds

Here comes some really practical help: I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. It helps to count and recount. This is a simple discipline to increase our thanksgiving. If you want to grow in gratitude, try this.

I woke up. I am breathing. My heart is beating. Thank you Lord! I can get out of bed. I have food to eat. I had a safe place to sleep. I have friends, family, a community.

I have a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for me. My sins are all forgiven. He has given me his Spirit. He has given me new life, a new heart, new desires. I can walk with him today. I can talk to him. He listens. I can please him. I can enjoy his presence. All this is a gracious gift. Thank you Lord!

I have five senses through which I experience this world God created. Everything I see, hear, smell, taste, feel is a gift. Every sunrise, every symphony, every fragrance, every flavor, every sensation is a gift. Thank you Lord!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

You could easily spend an hour just pausing to pay attention to the details that you have to be thankful for. And it will change your life. It will change your attitude! I will recount all your wonderful deeds.

And I don’t know about you, but I tend to be so self-focused. What do I personally have to be thankful for right now? But for the Israelite, they would start with creation. God made everything good for our enjoyment. He blessed us. But we rebelled against him, and in his great mercy he did not destroy us. He promised to rescue us. He promised to crush our enemy. When he destroyed the world with a flood he preserved Noah and his family. He chose Abraham. He was faithful to all his promises. Even after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, he did not forget his promises. He rescued his people with mighty acts of judgment. Even after 40 years of disobedience in the wilderness, he brought Joshua and his people into the promised land. He established his servant David and conquered their enemies. After their persistent disobedience, he sent them into captivity in Babylon, but even there he cared for them and preserved them, and brought them back to the land.

When you recount all the wonderful deeds of the Lord, you don’t have to limit it to only your experience or your lifetime. Thank you Lord that you have been faithful to your people and to your promises throughout history. Thank you that you have demonstrated yourself trustworthy and true, generous and good, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.

Of course the gospel is our greatest source of gratitude.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That God himself would come in the flesh to take my sin and guilt and die in my place is unfathomable, unthinkable, incredible, overwhelmingly good. Thank you Father, for sending Jesus. Thank you that you pursued me even in my rebellion. Thank you that your Holy Spirit conquered my hard heart.

And think of what has been promised to us that is yet to come! God has given to us his precious and very great promises (2Pet.1:4). He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and he has made us co-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord. You have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1Pet.1:4).

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

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

November 19, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:15; Missions Fuels Worship

09/23_2 Corinthians 4:15; Missions Fuels Worship; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180923_2cor4_15.mp3

Paul is teaching the essence of authentic ministry. Here in 2 Corinthians 4 verse 15, Paul climaxes with his ultimate passion and aim; worship. The aim of christian ministry is worship.

Earthen Vessels Display Resurrection Power

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul is highlighting his own human frailty to put on display the superabundant resurrection power of God. He is a fragile earthenware container, carrying around in his death-susceptible body the glorious light of the good news of Jesus Christ. His suffering, his afflictions, his persecution puts on display the supreme power of God who accomplishes his purposes through the unlikely and unqualified. Death is at work in the messenger to bring about life in the ones to whom he brings the message.

Theology Fuels Missions

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

He speaks out of a deep-rooted confidence in, a dependence on God who raises the dead. It is God who must give life, who must shine light in the sin-blinded hearts of unbelievers who cannot see Jesus for who he is. The god of this world has blinded minds, and the Lord of the universe must unblind them. Theology fuels his evangelism, his mission, his ministry. Knowing the truth of the resurrection, confident that the crucifixion of Jesus was a sufficient sacrifice to cleanse our sin-stained consciences and make us stand faultless in the presence of absolute holiness with great joy, dependent on the gospel to bring both he and those who receive his message into the very presence of almighty God, he speaks.

His confidence is not in his approach, his logic, his presentation. His confidence is not in his capable communication or his winsome wit and personality. His confidence is in God who raises the dead. He believes, so he speaks. Theology fuels missions.

And missions fuels worship. This is the goal of all Christian ministry.

Competing or Complementary?

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

It seems in this one verse he offers two competing goals; for your sake, and to the glory of God. Is his ultimate ministry aim to benefit believers or to bless God?

All this suffering, all this daily dying, all this carrying around in my body the dying of Jesus is on account of you; it is for your benefit. Death is at work in us, but life in you! Through my suffering, through my affliction, I am making plain that Jesus is more precious than any earthly comfort. See, Paul didn’t have to suffer. As we saw last time, his persecution was a direct result of his speaking. If he would just shut his mouth and stop talking about Jesus Christ and him crucified, he would not have to suffer. But he looked at the believers in Corinth, he looked at and Crispus and Gaius and Fortunatus and Achaicus and Stephanas and their families (1Cor.1:14-16; 16:17), and he said it is all for your sake. He looked forward through generations of believers who would believe because of his testimony, and he said it is worth it. You are worth it. It is a small price to pay for your eternal joy. He said back in 1:24 ‘we don’t lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy’. Paul is eager to see people blessed. He is eager to see grace abound through the many. He said in 1 Corinthians 9 that he presents the gospel free of charge; he made himself a servant to all that he might win the many. He was eager to win Jews and Gentiles; he met people where they were ‘that by all means I might save some’. All this is for your sake.

But we have to take ‘all this is for your sake’ in light of verse 11, which says that we ‘are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake’ and verse 5 where he says we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord with ourselves as servants of the church ‘for Jesus’ sake’. How is he serving churches in his speaking and in his sacrifices ‘for Jesus’ sake’, and also all this is ‘for your sake’? Is he contradicting himself? Are these two competing goals, or are they somehow complementary?

Through and To

Grace superabounds through the many. Literally translated this verse reads ‘for all these things for your sake in order that the grace increases through the many the gratitude abounds to the glory of God. It is not to the many; as if they were the end goal and final recipients; it is through the many; through their agency gratitude abounds to the glory of God. Paul is passionate to see the gospel reach more and more people, and it is genuinely for their benefit. But he has a greater end in view. It is to the glory of God.

The Glory of God

We see this passion for God’s glory throughout the scriptures, from Psalm 8 where God set his name and his glory above the heavens; Psalm 19 where the heavens were created to declare the glory of God; Psalm 24, where he is called ‘the King of glory’; Psalm 29, where glory is due to his name, where the heavenly beings ascribe glory to the Lord; and ‘all in his temple cry ‘Glory!’; Psalm 86 where ‘all the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name’. Isaiah 6 where the angelic beings cry ‘the whole earth is full of his glory’; Isaiah 43, where he created everyone ‘for his glory’; In Isaiah 42 and 48 God says that he does not give his glory to another, nor his praise to carved idols.

In Romans 1 and 3 our sin is exchanging the glory of God for images, and we fall short of glorifying God. In Romans 5 we ‘obtain access by faith into grace and rejoice in hope of the glory of God’. In Romans 15 we are to welcome one another ‘for the glory of God’ and ‘with one voice glorify God’; the Gentiles will ‘glorify God for his mercy’.

1 Corinthians 6 tells us we are to glorify God in our bodies; 1 Corinthians 10 tells us that eating, drinking, whatever we do is to be done to the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 1 in response to the faithfulness of God ‘we utter our Amen to the glory of God.’ In chapter 3, our beholding the glory of the Lord brings transformation. In chapter 4 Satan wants to keep us from seeing the glory of Christ, but God shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. In chapters 8 and 9, their gospel generosity is meant to cause the recipients to glorify God.

3 times in Ephesians 1, our manifold salvation is ‘to the praise of his glory’. In Philippians 1 our righteousness through Christ is to the glory and praise of God. In Philippians 2 we confess Jesus Christ as Lord ‘to the glory of God the Father’.

In 1 Peter 2 our good deeds are to cause even evildoers to glorify God. In 1 Peter 4 we are to ‘serve in the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory’ and even when we suffer for the name of Christ ‘we glorify God in that name’.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1 we are ‘called to his own glory.’

In 1 Timothy 1 the good news is described as ‘the gospel of the glory of the blessed God’

The glory of God is the central theme of the Bible. The Westminster Shorter Catechism got it right in declaring that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

God Glorified by Gratitude

We get that. We want to bring God glory. But how? What does that look like? What does that even mean? This verse helps.

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Paul endures suffering in gospel ministry so that as the grace increases through the many the gratitude abounds to the glory of God. Grace abounds. Grace is multiplied through the many. Grace is God’s kindness, God’s favor that is unearned, undeserved. It is God’s gift given freely. Salvation is a gift; forgiveness, a right standing with God, inner transformation; all gifts of God’s grace. As Paul proclaims Jesus, God’s grace is abounds to more people. As Paul suffers for the gospel, more people take notice, pay attention, and receive God’s grace. God is infinitely gracious. But the experience of God’s grace is multiplied as more people lean into God’s grace, depend on his grace, receive it.

And what is the natural response when you experience grace? I ran in to the grocery store the other day just to get a handful of things for dinner. I get to the checkout, and the lady in front of me has about half a shopping cart of groceries. She looks up and says, ‘you go ahead’. She didn’t have to do that. I don’t deserve special treatment at the grocery store. I am not more important than her. She was there first. And it will cost her; if she lets me go first, it will take her longer. That is grace. How do you respond? My first inclination is not to receive the grace. No, it’s OK. I don’t need it. I can wait. Of course I only came to get three things, so I didn’t get a cart, but there were a couple other things on a good sale, so I ended up with five things, and I should have got a cart, but I’m trying to manage to hold on to them all. She smiles and says, no really, you go ahead. What is the response to grace? I feel humbled and grateful. She noticed my situation and extended a small kindness to me that I didn’t deserve.

God’s grace is infinitely greater, deeper, richer.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Grace results in gratitude. These words are connected. The Greek word for grace is charis [χάρις]; the word for thanksgiving is eucharistian [εὐχαριστίαν]. Eu-charis-tian is built on the root charis. John Piper suggests an English translation that retains this root word connection; grace and gratitude. Gratitude is a response to grace; gratis. As grace extends to more people, more people are moved to be profoundly grateful.

So how does this help us understand what it means to glorify God? An increase in gratitude gives glory to God. God is recognized as the giver. The gift he gives is a gift; it is unearned, undeserved. He is under no obligation; he is free to give or to not give, and he chooses to give. When I receive his gifts, the normal response of a healthy soul is gratitude. I am humbled (because I did nothing to deserve it) and I feel grateful (because I see his character that he is gracious and generous and kind). This brings glory to God, because I am seeing and enjoying him, who he is. I am recognizing his character, and I am blessed by him. He is the kind of person I want to be around.

These two things, gratitude and glorifying God are linked in Romans 1, where our healthy response is broken.

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,

Although God had revealed his character, we did not honor, literally glorify him as God, and we were not grateful. This is what sin is. A failure to respond to God’s gracious character with gratitude; a failure to glorify him.

When we fail to receive his grace, when we reject his generosity we don’t enjoy him and we won’t be grateful; we won’t glorify God.

This is how ‘all this is for your sake’ and it is ‘for Jesus’ sake’ to the glory of God. The experience of God’s grace that overflows in gratitude is the enjoyment of God as good and it is this that glorifies God. We are benefited, and God is glorified as the giver.

Our theology, what we believe, fuels missions. What we believe ignites us to go, to love, to serve others in the name of Jesus, even in the face of persecution and death, because we believe in the God who raises the dead. We believe, therefore we speak. And missions fuels worship. As we risk to proclaim Jesus to more and more people, as we invite more people to experience God’s grace, we multiply gratitude, and gratitude overflows in worship. Paul is looking forward to that day when God will ‘raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.’ He is looking to that day when those he has proclaimed Jesus to are gathered with him to enjoy the presence of God.

So what about you? Are you experiencing God’s grace? Are you enjoying him as the ultimate giver of every good? Are you getting to know him? Are you humbled and overwhelmed with joy that he would give you what you don’t deserve? Can you say that God is enjoyable? That is what glorifies God.

And are you passionately pursuing the advance of God’s glory? This too is the natural response of a healthy soul to God’s grace. When we truly enjoy something, we want others to enjoy it with us. I will go out of my way to get you to see how good it is, to try it, to enjoy it. I may even make sacrifices to get you to experience it for yourself. What are you willing to endure to see others experiencing God’s grace?

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

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

September 24, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:14; God’s Triumph in Christ

04/08_2Corinthians 2:14; God’s Triumph in Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180408_2cor2_14.mp3

2 Corinthians 2:14. We are coming to the heart of the letter, the meat of what Paul wants to say. He wants them to understand the true nature of Christian ministry; what it means to be a minister of the gospel. It is not what they think. Corinth is enamored with power, prestige, persuasive speech, popularity. This is not the nature of Christian ministry.

Overview of the Introduction

So far, in the introduction to this letter, he has blessed God who, in the midst of affliction brings comfort, in order to comfort others who are sharing in the sufferings of Christ (1:3-7). He explained (1:8-10) the afflictions they experienced in Asia, afflictions so severe they despaired of life itself, but this was to wean them from self-sufficiency and cause them to rely completely on God. He invites his readers to help him by prayer (1:11). He appeals to his own clear conscience, that in all of life he follows as a ruling principle the grace of God. And he looks forward to that final day when the church will boast in their apostle, and he will boast in them (1:12-14). He defends his changing travel plans in this light, that his goal was to extend them grace, and that God’s gracious answer to us is always yes in Christ. He anchors their hope in the concerted operations of the Father, Son and Spirit in securing our acceptance (1:15-22). He tells them that his decision not to visit them earlier was for their joy, to spare them; and his letter was to communicate his abundant love for them (1:23-2:4). In the context of his seeking to spare them a painful visit, he urges them not to cause further pain to the individual who had repented of his sin, but rather to forgive, comfort, and re-affirm your love for him (2:5-10). He warns that the enemy is always on the offensive, and unforgiveness is a favorite foothold (2:11). In 2:12-13 he lets them know of an opportunity; an open door in the Lord for preaching the gospel, but because of the turmoil in his spirit, he said goodbye and headed on to Macedonia to find his co-worker. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it was the Corinthian church that was the cause of his unrest. He had sent Titus to Corinth to help work things through, and to bring news of their response to his previous letter. He loved this church so deeply, that he couldn’t take full advantage of a gospel opportunity because he was emotionally torn over this church.

The Missing Thanksgiving

What comes next is quite unexpected. We would anticipate a scolding for their causing a missed gospel opportunity in Troas. We would expect a stern rebuke for their self-centeredness and insensitivity to God’s work.

Instead, in verse 14 he gives thanks to God. “But thanks be to God.” This is the missing thanksgiving from the introduction of the letter. That would have been a glaring omission to anyone familiar with Paul’s letters. Normally, he introduces himself, he addresses his readers, he asks God’s grace and peace to be on them, and then he thanks God for them. But in 2 Corinthians, he omits the thanksgiving, and instead blesses God who brings comfort in afflictions.

For this thanksgiving, he uses the normal word for ‘grace’ in the sense of freely given gratitude to God. Instead of anger and frustration over a missed opportunity, Paul’s heart overflows with thanksgiving to God.

The Roman Triumph

And the content of this thanksgiving is even more shocking. He does not thank God for what he is doing in his readers, but rather what God is doing in and through his apostles. And he uses a startling picture.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

The triumphal procession was very well known in the Roman world. Ancient Greek and Roman literature record over 300 of these triumphs The returning victorious general whom the senate had granted the right to a triumph entered Rome standing on a high, two-wheeled chariot drawn by four horses.

Josephus describes the triumph for Vespasian and Titus after their victory in the Jewish war.

and when they had put on their triumphal garments, and had offered sacrifices to the gods that were placed at the gate, they sent the triumph forward, and marched through the theatres, that they might be the more easily seen by the multitudes.

5. Now it is impossible to describe the multitude of the shows as they deserve, and the magnificence of them all; …and all brought together on that day demonstrated the vastness of the dominions of the Romans; for there was here to be seen a mighty quantity of silver, and gold, and ivory, …and did not appear as carried along in pompous show only, but, as a man may say, running along like a river. …The images of the gods were also carried, being as well wonderful for their largeness, as made …[of] very costly materials; and many species of animals were brought… The men also who brought every one of these shows were great multitudes, and adorned with purple garments, all over interwoven with gold; … Besides these, one might see that even the great number of the captives was not unadorned, while the variety that was in their garments, and their fine texture, concealed from the sight the deformity of their bodies. But what afforded the greatest surprise of all was the structure of the pageants that were borne along; for indeed he that met them could not but be afraid that the bearers would not be able firmly enough to support them, such was their magnitude; for many of them were so made, that they were on three or even four stories, one above another. The magnificence also of their structure afforded one both pleasure and surprise; for upon many of them were laid carpets of gold. There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: … Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken.” [Flavius Josephus: The Jewish War. VII. 3-7]

One author describes: “The part of the procession which entered the city ahead of the triumphator’s chariot gave the spectators an idea of the victory. Not only were spoils of war carried along – weapons, gold, silver and jewellery – but also pictures of battle-scenes, of towns conquered, and boards with the names of the peoples subjugated. …White oxen, to be sacrificed to Jupiter, were brought along. The procession marched to a flourish of trumpets. …Aromatic substances were also carried. The chained prisoners, the most prominent of whom were as a rule killed in the dungeon before the sacrifice was made to Jupiter, walked right in front of the triumphator. …The chariot was followed by the Romans who had been liberated from slavery, wearing the pileus of the liberti. The soldiers, wearing laurel-wreaths on their heads and singing songs deriding their commander, brought up the rear. [Versnel, 1970, p.56-57, 95; cited BECNT p157-8]

Josephus continues: “6. Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the Romans’ ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the general of the enemy was slain. This general was Simon, the son of Gioras, who had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum, and had withal been tormented by those that drew him along; and the law of the Romans required that malefactors condemned to die should be slain there.

God Triumphs Over Us

This is the background of Paul’s jarring thanksgiving:

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

God takes center stage. God is the conquering general. God is the one the parade is for. God is worthy. The triumph is to recognize him, giving thanks and praise to him.

But where is Paul and the apostles? Where does Paul see himself? Over this there has been much debate. Does Paul see himself as a soldier in God’s army, who helped him to win the battle? This is how Tyndale translated it ‘thankes be vnto God which alwayes geveth vs the victorie in Christ;’ and the King James followed: ‘which always causeth us to triumph in Christ’. There is a big question if that is even a legitimate translation linguistically or grammatically, and that hardly fits. The apostles didn’t help God win the victory.

Does Paul see himself as a defeated enemy, conquered by God, displayed as a trophy of war, being led to his execution? As troubling as that sounds, that fits the evidence much better. Paul was an enemy of the cross. In his own words, “I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Gal.1:13) until Jesus conquered him on the road to Damascus while he was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).

Paul describes the apostolic ministry in 1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. …13 …We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

And in 2 Corinthians 4 he says:

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted… perplexed… 9 persecuted… struck down… 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

This was the Corinthian problem. They viewed the ministry and the Christian life as a triumph; they expected to ‘have all they want …to become rich …to become kings and reign’ (1Cor.4:8), and they expected a leader who was powerful and polished, a man of status who carried himself well, a rhetorical genius, a victorious general. Instead, Paul comes “in weakness and in fear and much trembling,” “I …did not come …with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:1-3). Paul is not the victor. He has been conquered by Christ. The NIV translates it this way: “who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession”

How the Victory was Won

Paul has been captured, and God’s power is displayed in his weakness (2Cor.12:9). And he is being ‘exhibited …like men sentenced to death’ (1Cor.4:9). In some ways, Paul’s life and testimony is like a pageant or a portrait being carried along, a vivid mural displaying the triumph of Christ over his enemies.

Right here in the context (v.11), there is a reference to the war between Satan and God; we are not to be ignorant of his designs and outwitted by Satan. We are to defeat him by forgiving one another.

We must keep in mind how Jesus won this victory.

Colossians 2 is the only other place in the New Testament where this word ‘triumph’ is used. Paul warns there:

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

And then he talks about Christ, and how we are united with Christ.

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

God triumphed over Satan and the demonic hordes, he disarmed them of their ability to accuse us by ‘forgiving us all our trespasses, by nailing it to the cross.’ God triumphed over his enemies, he put them to open shame, by allowing Christ to be ‘despised and rejected by men …as one from whom men hide their faces’ (Is.53:3). He canceled the record of debt that stood against us by nailing it to the cross.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; … 6 …the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. …10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; …

God triumphed over his enemies in Christ, by having Christ put to death in the place of rebels and enemies against him. And he took an enemy like Paul and transformed him and put him on display as a trophy of his grace. And he ‘showed him how much he must suffer for the sake of his name’ (Acts 9:16). And through people like Paul he ‘spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere’

Paul, as he loves to do, seems to mix his metaphors. He is a captive conquered by God in Christ, he has died with Christ, yet he is raised with Christ and his life is a mural displaying God’s triumph; and in his sufferings, he becomes an incense bearer in the triumphal procession; he spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. Fragrant herbs must be crushed or ground or burned to release their sweet smell.

And he thanks God that it is so. God is worthy to be praised, because God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere through the weakness and afflictions of his apostles. Paul’s passion is to make Christ known everywhere, and if he must be crushed to release this sweet odor, then thanks be to God! This is what authentic Christian ministry looks like; this is what authentic Christian ministry smells like.

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

April 10, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer for Multiplied Thanksgiving

10/29 2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer and Multiplied Thanksgiving; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171029_2cor1_11.mp3

Today we look at the subject of prayer. In 2 Corinthians Paul offers no thanksgiving for the Corinthian church; but invites the Corinthians to bless God with him for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for the deliverance of their apostle.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For 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. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

To make this passage read more smoothly in English, the translators have broken it up into shorter sentences, but in the original verse 11 is not an independent sentence. It continues the thought of the previous. It begins with a participle; some translations render it ‘as’ [NET] or ‘while you (also) join in helping…’ [LEB, HCSB].

Working Together With God

This is an amazing statement. Paul has just said that the affliction that so utterly burdened them beyond their ability to cope and caused them to despair even of life was so that they would rely not on themselves but on God who raises the dead. This resurrecting God delivered them from a deadly peril, and he will deliver. They have set their hope on God alone that he will deliver. No dependence on self. All dependence completely, exclusively on God alone, and you also. Even you, working together (with God) on our behalf by prayer. What in the world is Paul saying? God alone is their hope. God alone rescues. And the Corinthian church works together with God to bring about this rescue?! This is staggering. This seems contradictory. God alone saves. God alone brings deliverance. And you work together with God to bring about this deliverance. God works alone, but he often works in answer to prayer.

This word translated ‘help’ is a big word. It is a compound word. The first prefix of this word means ‘with or together’. The second prefix means ‘under, beneath, or through’. The root of the word is ‘toil or work’. Working together under; laboring or toiling underneath with. When I look at this word, I get the picture of Moses in Exodus 17.

Exodus 17:8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Aaron and Hur labored underneath with Moses. In another sense, Moses labored underneath with Aaron in and all the fighting men. This story gives us an insight into prayer. Prayer is hard work. What is more exhausting, what is more draining, what is more difficult? Standing, holding a stick in the air; or wielding a sword in battle against an enemy all day? I think it is fair to say that Joshua or any one of his fighting men burned more calories that day than Moses, Aaron and Hur combined. But we don’t read of Joshua growing weary. We read of Moses growing weary. You see, prayer is hard work. It is wearying work. It requires help from others who come alongside. If you have ever entered into the serious work of prayer, you understand. Think about it. How many of you have fallen asleep while doing manual physical labor? How many have fallen asleep while attempting to pray? Prayer is labor.

C.H. Spurgeon writes about this passage “I find that in the original, the word for, “helping together,” implies very earnest WORK. Some people’s prayers have no work in them, but the only prayer which prevails with God is a real workingman’s prayer—where the petitioner, like a Samson, shakes the gates of mercy, and labors to pull them up rather than be denied an entrance! We do not want fingertip prayers, which only touch the burden— we need shoulder prayers—which bear a load of earnestness, and are not to be denied their desire. We do not want those dainty runaway knocks at the door of mercy, which professors give when they show off at prayer meetings, but we ask for the knocking of a man who means to have, and means to stop at mercy’s gate till it opens and all his needs shall be supplied! The energetic, vehement violence of the man who is not to be denied, but intends to carry heaven by storm until he wins his heart’s desire—this is the prayer which ministers covet of their people!” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

We see Jacob, in weakness, his hip dislocated, clinging to God.

Genesis 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jesus taught his followers

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus invites us to ‘keep bothering him’, to ‘beat him down by our continual coming’, to ‘cry out to him day and night.’

Jesus tells another parable in Luke 11

Luke 11:5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Jesus invites us to impudence, to persistence in prayer.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

An Example of Earnest Prayer

Paul tells the Corinthians that they also are laboring together under God on our behalf by prayer. God’s deliverance and future deliverance come to him by means of the prayer of the churches. We see this very thing happen in Acts 12.

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.

Peter is in trouble. James had already been beheaded. Peter was next.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Earnest prayer. Fervent prayer. Intent prayer. The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days. We don’t know how many of those days Peter was imprisoned. This might have been a seven day prayer meeting. The church had something serious to pray about.

Acts 12:6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.

God waited until the last possible moment.

Acts 12:11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

These believers were gathered together laboring together under God in prayer on behalf of Peter. God rescued Peter in response to their prayers. This resulted in great joy. The servant girl Rhoda was so overjoyed, she left Peter locked outside while she ran in to tell the others.

Prayer and Need

This is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

When whole churches labor together under God in prayer on our behalf, it results in many giving thanks on our behalf for the grace granted through many.

There is a request that goes out horizontally. Pray for us. This is not the only place that Paul asks for prayer. In Romans 15 Paul says:

Romans 15:30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

To the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

And to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

To the church at Philippi,

Philippians 1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

And to the church in Colossae:

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—

And to Philemon

Philemon 1:22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Paul was not ashamed to ask for prayer. He knew his own weakness and his need for help. This was the primary evidence of his own salvation. In Acts 9, when God humbled Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, when God sent Ananias to heal him, the main evidence of his transformation was ‘for behold, he is praying’ (Acts 9:11). Paul was praying; he began to acknowledge his dependence on God alone. He was no longer relying on himself.

Allow me to quote Spurgeon again: “Why God has been pleased to command us to pray at all it is not difficult to discover, for prayer glorifies God, by putting man in the most humble posture of worship! The creature in prayer acknowledges his Creator with reverence, and confesses Him to be the giver of every good and perfect gift; the eyes are lifted up to behold the glory of the Lord, while the knees are bent to the earth in the lowliness of acknowledged weakness. …prayer… is the most humble, and so the most fitting to set forth the glory of the perfect One as it is beheld by imperfect flesh and blood. …in their very essence, all truthful confessions of personal fault are but homage paid to the infinite perfections of the Lord of hosts. …Moreover, the act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is no small blessing to such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favors without compelling us to pray for them, we would never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, a request in forma pauperis, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. I believe that the most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty, and always depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and therefore the use of prayer, because while it adores God, it lays the creature where he should be—in the very dust. ” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

Multiplied Thanksgiving

To the proud Corinthian church, who were looking for a celebrity to follow, someone who had it all together, Paul holds up his weakness and need. Paul wants the Corinthians to know that it is not him who is strong, but Jesus. It is not him who is self-sufficient, but all sufficiency is in Jesus. He is not independent, but dependent, utterly, hopelessly, helplessly dependent on God alone. For righteousness, he depended on God alone. For rescue from present circumstances, his hope was in God alone. For future resurrection and eternal life, he depended on God alone. It is not his strength, his credentials, his capabilities he holds up, but his weakness. He is dependent on God, and he is dependent on their prayers for him.

Pray for me. The request goes out to many. Many prayers go up to God for him. The grace comes down to rescue him. The report goes out that God has delivered him. Now many faces are turned to God in thanksgiving for him.

Thanksgiving reverses the degeneration of sin described in Romans 1

Romans 1:21 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.

Paul invites the Corinthians to give evidence of their own transformation in thanksgiving to God. He invites them to partner with him in his dependence on God as they labor together for him in prayer so they can join him in blessing God as they see and experience the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we are able to comfort those who are in all affliction. Through his abundant affliction, Paul seeks to multiply prayer so that thanksgiving is multiplied, to the glory of God.

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

October 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Comfort in Affliction

10/15 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Comfort in Affliction ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171015_2cor1_3-7.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Missing Thanksgiving

This letter even in its greeting is rich and deep with gospel truth. But to one familiar with Paul and his letters, and even with how letters were commonly written in Paul’s day, this letter is startling in what it does not say. The normal letter writing structure is: author, readers, greeting, thanksgiving, prayer, body, closing greetings.

This is one of only two New Testament letters that lack the thanksgiving. In Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, who were abandoning the grace of Christ and turning to another gospel, Paul attacks the problem head on. In Corinth, Paul laments that they are inclined to turn to another Jesus, another Spirit, another gospel (11:4).

Compare this even with 1 Corinthians, where he addresses many serious issues in the church. He begins:

1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Instead of a section of thanksgiving for what God is doing in the lives of his readers, he blesses God directly; his thanksgiving is about what God is doing in his own life. This omission of a thanksgiving may have communicated to his readers that all was not well in their relationship.

He offers no thanksgiving; but invites the Corinthians to give thanks for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for their apostle (v.11).

Even in this opening benediction Paul confronts the misunderstanding of the Corinthians; they thought that Paul’s weakness and sufferings were a sign that God was not pleased with him; that he was not a genuine apostle. They were misunderstanding the gospel. Instead he holds up his weakness and sufferings as evidence that he is following in the very footsteps of the real Jesus, who came not as a reigning King, but as a suffering servant.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul made it clear that he preached the cross; he proclaimed Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.1:18, 23), which seemed foolish to many, but the cross is in fact the power of God for salvation.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

He begins by drawing their attention not to what God had done in them, but to God himself. In his greeting, he asked that the twin gifts of grace and peace be extended together from the two united givers; God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he declares God blessed; blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The titles God, Father, and Lord Jesus Christ are repeated, but in the greeting God is our Father; where in this blessing God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In his humanity Jesus prayed to and referred to his Father as his God. This in no way undermines the clear fact that Jesus recognized himself as fully God, equal to his Father, sharing the same divine nature with his Father. Yet as a distinct person from his Father, he was in conversation and relationship with his Father, and he gladly submitted to the authority of his Father as his God.

God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal Father who sent his one and only eternal Son into the world out of his great love to rescue sinners.

The Father of Mercies

God is the Father of mercies. In Nehemiah the people prayed and confessed their sins, recounting the repetitive mercies of God

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. …19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. … …27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. …31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Mercy is pity, feeling sorry for one who by their own foolishness and rebellion has got himself into great trouble. Mercy is granting escape from the punishment one rightly deserves. Where grace is enjoying the benefit you did not earn; mercy is avoiding the consequences you did earn.

God is the Father of mercies; he gives birth to mercies. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; it is only through Jesus that we can experience mercy. God fathered mercy when he sent his only Son into the world. We escape the punishment we deserve only because Jesus paid in full for my every sin on the cross.

The God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

God is the God of all comfort; God is sovereign over all comfort, he is the source of all comfort.

We tend to have a very Corinthian problem. We might say ‘God is not doing his job of comforting me, because I am not feeling very comfortable.’ We have softened this word; we think of comfort food and a comfy recliner that makes you feel all warm and cuddly.

We need to redefine comfort. Dictionary.com defines

the noun as ‘a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety. Something that promotes such a state.’ They define the verb comfort as 1. to soothe, console, or reassure; bring cheer to. 2. to make physically comfortable. And then they list 3. Obsolete. To aid; support or encouragement. This obsolete sense is the sense we are after. The ‘fort‘ in the word comfort comes from the Latin fortis (fortare) – which means ‘strong’. From it we get fortitude; mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously. We could translate this ‘encouragement;’ notice the root ‘courage‘ in encouragement?

The word literally means to call near or to call alongside. Jesus promised that he would not leave us alone, but he would send another comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us (Jn.14:16-18). There is amazing courage that comes when someone is by your side. One day in grade school a bully that had been harassing me made the grave mistake of following me home. My big brother happened to be outside, and this bully was much less intimidating when his feet were dangling about six inches off the ground as my brother picked him up by his coat and breathed into him some words of life; ‘if you want to live, you’ll leave my brother alone!’ There is strong comfort in knowing someone has your back. God promises ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5). This is the kind of comfort we are talking about. The comfort that he is with me.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Comfort in All Our Affliction

The God of all comfort comforts us in all our affliction. The word affliction means pressure; a crushing burden; picture a donkey weighed down by a burden so great it can no longer stand. Are you experiencing great pressure? A crushing weight? God comforts us in all our affliction. No affliction is excluded from the comfort of the God of all comfort.

Purpose In Afflictions

And there is great purpose in this. Notice the purpose words ‘so that‘. So often affliction seems random, meaningless, and therefore hopeless.

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

So that; there is design in affliction; the afflictions we experience are not meaningless; this alone gives great encouragement to persevere. It is not random chance; it is not that God is angry with me, or I have done something wrong that I am now paying for; that is a non-Christian idea; more along the lines of karma. The Bible says ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8:1). God is not against us; in Christ he is for us. Even in the midst of affliction we can be gospel confident that God is for us. Every affliction that comes our way is purposeful, designed and crafted by the good hand of a loving Father to be exactly what we need to accomplish in us his perfect purposes.

What happens when you are under pressure? How do you respond when you are facing affliction and opposition? We tend to pull in, to withdraw, to be on the defensive; if the affliction is severe we might curl up in the fetal position. Our focus is all within. In the midst of our pain, we might reach out to others in desperation for help, but we don’t reach out to others to help them. We focus on the pain, the pressure, and we do anything we can to make it stop.

Paul, one who had endured much affliction, teaches us something about suffering. He says it is not all about you. It is not primarily for you. Paul tells us that our affliction, and even God’s comfort in our affliction is not for us. ‘God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.’ His purpose is that our focus would turn outward, that we would reach out to others in all affliction, that we would become a conduit of God’s comforting mercies to others. In our affliction, God intends that our arms stretch outward to others.

Philippians 3:10b

Do any of you have a favorite verse but when you look it up, you don’t like the context? Philippians 3:7-10a has been a passage like that for me. It is an amazing section, but I’d prefer to omit verse 10b.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

This is great stuff! ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord; …that I may gain Christ and be found in him; …that I may know him.’ I’d prefer that the verse stopped after ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.’ Who likes suffering? Who wants to sign up for sufferings? But if I want to know him, really connect with him and identify with him, to really experience the surpassing worth of ‘knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,’ I must enter in to his sufferings; sufferings on behalf of others. Knowing him corresponds to sharing in his sufferings just like the power of his resurrection corresponds to becoming like him in his death.

You see, it’s only dead people who get resurrected. It’s only suffering people who can be comforted. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord comes through suffering the loss of all things to gain Christ and be found in him.

Sharing Abundantly in Christ’s Sufferings

This comfort is purposeful, and it is others focused. We are comforted so that we are then able to comfort others with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

We share in the sufferings of Christ; the sufferings of Christ were not for him. They were not at all about him. They were not his sufferings; they were ours. As our substitute, he took our sufferings. He suffered not for himself, but for us. If we are suffering for our sins, then we deserve it. But if we are suffering on account of Christ, in so far as our suffering is for the benefit of others, we share in the sufferings of Christ.

Understand, our sufferings are not like Christ’s sufferings, in that we can’t pay the price for the sins of anyone. But they are sharing in the sufferings of Christ in that they are for the benefit of others.

Paul says ‘we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings’. There is an overflow, a superabundance of suffering.

Do you want to experience abundant comfort? Embrace suffering. God’s comfort is in direct proportion to the suffering you experience. I am not saying you should seek suffering or pray for suffering. Don’t look for affliction; look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus, obey Jesus, and affliction will find you. But don’t hide from it. Don’t run from it. Embrace it. Open yourself to it. Allow Jesus to meet you in it. Savor the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It is only through abundant suffering that we experience abundant comfort.

We and You

Paul has been talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’. A reader might assume that he is included in the ‘we’ until he gets to verse 6, where he says ‘If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.’ Then we find out that the ‘we’ here is Paul and the other apostles, Paul and his co-laborers in contrast to the readers. The Corinthians are not part of the ‘we;’ they are the ‘you’. They had rejected suffering. They did not want to take up their cross and follow Jesus. They looked down on Paul because of how much he seemed to suffer. But Paul is not alone in his affliction. ‘We’ the apostles experience overflowing sufferings; and we experience overflowing comfort.

Paul had already pointed out this contrast between we and you in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

Paul is gently rebuking his readers. He is showing them that they are not part of the ‘we;’ but he is inviting them to become part of the ‘we.’

All for your comfort

2 Corinthians 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Paul gives a two part sentence here. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. The afflictions of the apostles, the afflictions of Paul and his co-workers were for the comfort and salvation of the Corinthian church. Indeed, they heard the gospel and experienced salvation because Paul did not shy away from suffering. His current persecution is meant to bring them encouragement. They ought to be emboldened by his example to stand up for Christ even if it costs social standing and opposition. Instead, they are embarrassed of Paul and his sufferings.

We would expect the pairing of this sentence to go something like this: If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is because of your affliction. Instead he gives a lopsided picture. Our affliction is to bring you comfort. Our comfort is also to bring you comfort. Both the affliction and the comfort we experience is meant to give you courage.

There is space for the Corinthians to share in the sufferings. Paul understands, they will only experience the comfort when they patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

2 Corinthians 1:7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Our hope for you is confirmed; it is steadfast. Listen to Paul’s confidence! Paul’s confidence rests not on the character of the Corinthians, but on the faithfulness of God. He is certain that as followers of Jesus, they will face affliction. They will share in his sufferings. Not if but when. When you have fellowship in the sufferings, you will also have fellowship in the comfort.

Paul is gently inviting them into the cross shaped life of suffering for others. Not only is it to be expected that an apostle of Christ Jesus should suffer, but it is normal for every follower of Jesus to experience suffering. And it is only in the midst of the pressure and the abundant sufferings that we will experience the abundant comfort from the God of all comfort.

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

October 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanks and Giving; 2 Corinthians 9

11/27 Thanks and Giving; 2 Corinthians 9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161127_thanks-and-giving.mp3

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 9. Today I want to explore the relationship between thanks and giving. Are you a generous person? Are you a thankful person? 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 deal with the grace of giving which results in thanksgiving. Paul is writing the church in Corinth to remind them about a special collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem that they had promised to participate in. He is planning to visit them soon, en route to Jerusalem, and wants them to have their gift ready before he arrives.

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

You see the result of thanksgiving in verses 11 and 12. Generosity in giving produces thanksgiving to God. We can see this thanksgiving produced in multiplied ways. The recipients of the gift will thank God that he provided for their needs. Paul thanks God for the generosity of the churches who give. Those who give freely and cheerfully give thank God for the opportunity to express their love through giving. Other churches that hear about their gift will thank God for their generosity, as well as being stimulated to give themselves, which in turn multiplies thanksgiving to God. So we see thanksgiving multiplied through giving.

You Reap What You Sow

Paul gives them a simple principle;

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The farmer is not stingy when sowing seed in his field. In Jesus’ parable about the seed and the soils, the sower is downright reckless, throwing seed everywhere, on the path, among the thorns, on the rocks, and into good soil. We might be tempted to view this as wasteful. But the sower understands that the more seed that goes into the ground, the greater the harvest. The one who is stingy in sowing his field will reap a scant harvest.

Jesus said

Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

We see this principle in the proverbs.

Proverbs 11:24-25

24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;

another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,

and one who waters will himself be watered.

This seems counter-intuitive. Our proverb goes ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’. But God’s logic is different. The more freely one gives, the more abundantly he will be blessed. Notice the proverb says ‘another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.’ We have an obligation to give. You have so you can give. To stop up the flow out is to constrict the flow in. Jesus calls the man a fool who tears down his barns to build bigger barns to store up more for himself. Instead the one who is blessed with an abundance is expected to give.

It doesn’t make human sense to see one who gives freely grow all the richer. We gain insight into how this works in another proverb.

Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,

and he will repay him for his deed.

God views generosity as a loan given to him, and he will be faithful to pay back with unbeatable interest.

This is not, contrary to some television extortionists, a way to get rich quick. Give all your money to the guy on the screen, and God will make you filthy rich. Jesus says in Luke 14:14 “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Anyone who gives so he can get more money has his heart in the wrong place.

Freely Give

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul is writing to encourage the church to give. But he makes it clear that he is not twisting arms. He is not interested in guilting anyone into giving. This is a special collection for the poor, outside of the regular support of the local ministry. There is to be no sense of obligation. There is to be no grief or grudging in giving. Giving is a matter of the heart. Giving should be accompanied by joy. God loves a cheerful giver, because God is a cheerful giver.

Abundant Supply

We give freely because we have received freely.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

We give, not primarily because we are generous, but because we are believers. To withhold good is to act in unbelief. Paul turns our attention to God. God is able. God is able to make all grace abound to you. Not just a little bit of grace. Not just enough grace. All grace. Grace is the good we do not deserve. God is able to bring all the good we do not deserve our way. And not just all grace, but all grace abundantly. All grace in an overflowing way. God is over the top in his giving. We have all sufficiency, all we need for contentment. All grace, in all, always, all contentment, for all good work. He abounds toward us so that we can abound in every good work. God is abundant in generosity to those who don’t deserve it. He distributes freely. He gives to the poor, those who are desperately needy and can’t come up with it on their own. He gives a righteousness that lasts forever. He not only supplies, but multiplies seed for sowing and generates increasing righteousness in you. Notice the seed he abundantly supplies is not for hoarding, but for sowing. He enriches you in every way so that you can be generous in every way. God’s blessings are not to be hoarded, they are to be shared. Unbelief says ‘I’d better hold on to what I have, because I don’t know if any more will be coming’. Faith says ‘with God there is abundant supply; he will never run short. And his heart is toward me; he will never withhold good from me. He gives abundantly so that I can abundantly give. Now we can begin to understand how this produces thanksgiving to God. I do not receive thanks because of my abundant generosity. Instead God is thanked for his abundant generosity that he extends to others through me.

Surpassing Grace

2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This brings out another aspect of thanksgiving to God. Giving is like a priestly offering, and it not only meets practical needs, but it overflow in thanksgiving to God. The poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem will glorify God because they see by the conduct of believing Gentiles, that you have been truly changed by the grace of Christ. This generosity is designed to bring about a unity and mutual affection in the body of Christ across cultural and geographical boundaries. Jewish believers will recognize the surpassing grace of God that has been poured out on you Gentiles. What undeserved favor, that God would reach outside the boundaries of his chosen people and extend grace to undeserving Gentiles. The affections of God’s people will be turned toward you and they will pray for you because they recognize the surpassing grace of God extended to you.

Superlatives

This chapter is filled with superlative language. Bountiful; cheerful, all grace in all things at all times with all contentment for all good work, freely, supply, multiply, increase, enrich, overflow, surpassing. Paul concludes with this explosion of praise:

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

God deserves the praise because God is the giver of all good. God’s gift is so good, it is beyond words. That he would grant life transforming salvation to those who were not his people, to bring them in and make them his own, is inexpressibly gracious. That God would come to his own people, rebels who had rejected him time and time again, to rescue them, is unspeakably great. This chapter is about giving, but we only can give because God first lavished his unspeakably great gift on us. We can only love because he first loved us.

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! God’s gift to us is Jesus, his only Son.

Has God made all his grace abound to you?

Have you found all your contentment, all your supply, all sufficiency, in all things, at all times in him?

Has God’s inexpressibly great and gracious gift enriched your heart in every way to be generous in every way?

Is your life characterized by joyful generosity?

Does your heart overflow with thanksgiving?

Are your giving and your thanksgiving rooted in and motivated by God’s inexpressible gift to you?

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

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

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

November 27, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering

07/03 Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160703_leviticus-7_11-38.mp3

Leviticus chapter 7 deals again with the peace or fellowship offering that was introduced in chapter 3. In chapter 3, it was the third of the 5 offerings, listed as the last of the three voluntary offerings which were a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Here in chapter 7, the peace offering is moved to the final place, and other general instructions are included. Leviticus 3 gave detailed instructions to the worshiper on the peace offering. It gave instructions on which animals were acceptable, how they were to be prepared, what was to be done with the blood, and what parts were to be offered on the altar. The peace offering was an offering ‘to the LORD’ (3:3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 14), and Chapter 3 said that it was a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD’ (3:5, 16). This language of ‘pleasing aroma’ is missing from chapter 7. Chapter 3 was entirely Godward, it focused on this offering as an offering to please the LORD. Chapter 7 comes at it from the perspective of the offerer and the priests. What is to be done with the rest of the offering? What accompanies the offering? What occasions might prompt a peace or fellowship offering?

Lord, surprise us once again with the relevance of your Word. May our hearts be penetrated by the power of your truth. Let us learn and grow from this ancient book that was breathed out by you, which you promised that not the smallest part of a letter would pass away until all of it is fulfilled. Open our eyes to see the fulfillment of your law in Jesus!

Eating the Offering

Leviticus 7:11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. 19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

One of the main things we notice about this offering is how much of this sacrifice was to be eaten. In chapter 3 there was no mention of any bread products. Remember, the peace offering was an animal sacrifice. But here we see that it is to be accompanied by three different kinds of bread; unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and leavened loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. This also is surprising, because in 2:11 we were told that “no grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven”. In chapter 2 leaven is allowed in the offering of firstfruits, but it is never to be burnt on the altar (2:12). But this is the peace or fellowship offering. Why is leaven specifically commanded to be included here? I’m going to leave this question hanging for now, and we will come back to it later.

One loaf from each offering was to be brought as a gift to the LORD, but it went to the priest who was officiating to supply his need. We are not told what was to be done with the rest of the loaves, but we could speculate, based on the rest of the passage, that they were given back to the worshiper as food.

The Third Day

It is carefully specified what happens to the rest of the animal. Its flesh is to be eaten by the worshiper. If the peace offering is an offering of thanksgiving, the animal is to be eaten the same day; none of it is to be left until morning. If the peace offering is a vow or freewill offering, it is to be eaten on the same day or the next day, but any meat left until the third day must be burned. This of course had a simple health reason; without refrigeration, meat would begin to spoil and not be safe to eat on the third day. But there may also be a picture here. We are told in Paul’s presentation of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:4 …that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

But you will not find a clear prophecy in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised on the third day. But it is said that his third day resurrection is ‘in accordance with the Scriptures. Psalm 16 is quoted twice by the Apostles in Acts (2:27; 13:35) and applied to the resurrection of Jesus .

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

If we link this statement by the Psalmist that the Father would not let his holy one see corruption with this statement that flesh left till the third day is tainted or becomes an abomination, we could draw the conclusion that Jesus must be raised on the third day. We learn from John 11 that Lazarus was expected to stink because he had been dead four days.

Offerings Taken Home

It is also worth noting what is missing from the instructions here. It was stated about the priests portion of the grain, the sin and the guilt offerings that it must be eaten in a holy place. This is not said of the peace offering. Apparently the peace offering may be taken outside the Lord’s courtyard. Meat from a vow or freewill offering that is eaten the second day would likely be eaten on the journey or at home. This explains the further regulations about sacrificial meat not coming in contact with anything unclean. Nothing unclean was allowed in the tabernacle. But if meat that had been offered as a sacrifice was brought outside, it must be carefully handled so that which is holy would not come into contact with that which is unclean. An unclean person can be cleansed by the appropriate sacrifice, and then have access to the holy, but for someone who is unclean to come uncleansed in to contact with the holy would mean death. But anyone who is clean, even those who did not participate in the offering, may eat of it.

The Severity of Holiness

There is serious consequences for not treating the holy things as holy. The language is severe. ‘He shall not be accepted,’ ‘it shall not be credited to him,’ ‘he shall bear his iniquity,’ ‘that person shall be cut off from his people.’ God is merciful. He desires to dwell with his people. But he must be treated as holy. His instructions must be heeded. For anyone to say ‘I know God says this, but…’ is a very dangerous thing.

Eat No Fat or Blood

Leviticus 7:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. 25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

It makes sense in the context of what portion of the sacrifice may be eaten by the worshiper to include this general prohibition against eating any fat or blood. “All the fat is the LORD’s” (Lev.3:16). The fat of animals that were not offered in sacrifice may be used for other purposes, but it may not be eaten. No blood is to be eaten, because “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Lev.17:11). The consequences for disobedience is severe.

The Priests Portion

Leviticus 7:28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30 His own hands shall bring the LORD’s food offerings. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. 31 The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. 32 And the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33 Whoever among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat shall have the right thigh for a portion. 34 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

Notice in this section the necessity for hands-on personal worship. A wealthy person cannot send his servant to bring an offering on his behalf to the tabernacle. He must go himself. His own hands shall bring it. And this is a messy labor intensive operation, slaughtering, cleaning, and butchering an animal. The fat is burned on the altar. The breast is shared among the priests for food. The right thigh goes to the officiating priest. God is emphatic “that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings” (1 Cor. 9:13). God uses the first person “I,”

34 …I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

This is strong emphatic repetitive language. God is serious about ‘the laborer deserving his wages’ (Luke 10:7). The worker is worthy of his hire, but do not give your minister your heart, your deepest affections. Chapter 3 was very specific. The fat covering the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, the long lobe of the liver, the choicest and best parts, the seat of one’s very self, the mind, emotions and will, belong to God alone. Your innermost being must be devoted to God alone. Too often the middle-man becomes the focal point. People talk too much about their favorite preacher and too little about Jesus!

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Yes support your local church! By all means pray for your pastor. He needs it! But keep your focus on Jesus! Give all your affections to Jesus!

Summary Statement

Leviticus 7:37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

This is a concluding statement of the first seven chapters of Leviticus. This connects the regulations here to the historical context. God delivered this directly to Moses on Mount Sinai after the Exodus out of Egypt. These are the very words of God. One thing interesting to note is that we have looked at the burnt, grain, sin,guilt and peace offerings, but the ordination offering is mentioned here for the first time in Leviticus. It will appear 5 times in the next chapter, and it appeared five times in Exodus 29, another chapter dealing with the consecration of the priests. The ordination was hinted at in the special grain offering of the priests in 6:19-23. So these verses bring to a close the section dealing with the offerings and they introduce the next section of Leviticus, dealing with the ordination of the priests.

Fellowship

As we wrap up today, I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the peace or fellowship offering. Each offering points to Jesus in a specific way. The peace offering does not take away our guilt over specific sins; the sin and guilt offerings do that. The peace offering does not deal with our sin nature and present ourselves completely to God; the whole burnt offering does that. Now that we have received forgiveness, the peace offering does not make acceptable to God the work of our hands; that is the picture of the grain offering. What does the peace or fellowship offering teach us?

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

The peace offering is a voluntary response to grace. We have experienced something we did not earn, something we do not deserve. We have been forgiven! Our debt has been paid! We are released from guilt and shame. We have been declared righteous by the Judge of all the earth. Our most inward affections are now directed toward God the source of all grace. This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper partakes of the sacrifice. This offering is a shared meal in God’s presence. It is a feast in the courtyard of the LORD who has done great things for me!

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Why is leaven included in this offering? Leaven puffs up, and it is usually a symbol of sin and pride that puffs up. But in the sin and guilt offerings our sin has been decisively dealt with. In the whole burnt offering all of self has been placed on the altar. Our works are now motivated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And in response, we are filled to overflowing, puffed up, not with pride, but filled with a fullness of joy that is uncontainable! In Deuteronomy 16, unleavened bread is called ‘bread of affliction’. Leaven is that which ferments and bubbles up and overflows.

Jesus came eating and drinking, and when he was questioned,

Luke 5:34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?

… 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Are you today enjoying your blood-bought fellowship with God? Are your deepest affections fixed on God? Does your heart uncontainably overflow as you enter his courts with praise and thanksgiving?

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

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Sovereign and Free

11/22 God Sovereign and Free [omnipotent] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151122_god-sovereign-free.mp3

Allow me to read a letter

By the president of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington.”

[http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=3584]

Washington mentions the providence of Almighty God – God’s preserving and governing of all things – as a primary reason for our thanksgiving.

We are studying who God is, what he is like, what God says about himself, how we can honor and worship him as he really is.

God is God. What does it mean for God to be God? The most common Hebrew word for God is El, Eloah, Elohim, which at its root means to be strong. He is God Almighty. God is the supreme ruler over all, he is the sovereign authority of the universe.

Let’s look at some of the things the Bible tells us about God.

Power in Creation

Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. That is unfathomable power!

Have you ever made something? I worked for a time in the engineering department of a manufacturing firm. When we were developing a new product, there were countless hours of meetings discussing the concept and planning the product. There was much thought and effort put in to the best design. There were sketches and conceptual drawings, calculations, reviews, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, more discussions, schematics, blueprints, fabrication drawings, solid modeling, prototyping, testing, reviews, more meetings, adjustments, revisions to the drawings, more testing, more meetings, lots of head scratching… And then there was the parts sourcing. What kind of materials should we use? How long will they last? Where can we get them? How much do they cost? Will they arrive on time? Can we get enough? How will we make sure the parts are correct? Once we have all the parts, how long will it take to build? Who has the skill and training to assemble it correctly? How do we make sure it works? Will it actually do what we designed it to do?

Imagine this kind of power! He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm! Some of our higher executives thought they had this power. They would march into the engineering department and demand: “I spoke, why isn’t it done yet? I commanded, why isn’t it in my hands?” The answer was often “You haven’t given us the proper resources to complete what you requested. We need more time, more money, better technology, more manpower.”

But think of this. God didn’t have anything outside of himself to work with! God didn’t start with any raw materials. Into nothing he spoke and something was immediately there at his command!

Power in Fulfilling His Purposes

We are told in verse 11 ‘the counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’. This is in contrast to the counsel and plans of nations and people. Have you ever made plans that came to nothing? You spend time and energy and resources and you are excited and it just doesn’t happen the way you had hoped. Maybe it doesn’t happen at all. Your plans come to nothing. How often are your plans frustrated? How often are you frustrated? How fun is it to be around you when you are frustrated? Something comes up, things get interrupted, you run out of time, something doesn’t work out, someone you were counting on forgets or lets you down. Imagine, God is never, ever frustrated! There is never a plan God makes that doesn’t work out exactly the way he had planned. We get frustrated because we didn’t plan well enough, or we made plans based on inadequate information, or we were unable to carry out our plans, or our plans were contingent on someone else who didn’t do what we were depending on them to do. God runs into none of these problems; he has all knowledge and all wisdom, he has unlimited resources within himself, his plans are dependent on no one outside himself. God is not limited by any of the things that we are limited by. God has never ever had his plans frustrated. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” Our response ought to be fear of the LORD and awe filled worship.

Psalm 148 says:

Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 ​fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 ​Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

He commanded, he established, he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Romans 4 describes God as the one who:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls into existence the things that do not exist. He creates something out of nothing.

Psalm 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 ​Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

God does all that he pleases. Whatever he wants to do, whatever he wills to do, whatever he desires, that he does. There is nothing that God wants to do, wishes he could do, but is thwarted or frustrated in his plans or desires. We worship a happy God, not a frustrated God. He does all that he pleases and he is pleased with all that he does. This is what it means to be God. He has the right to do all that he pleases, and what pleases him is always what is best.

God says in Isaiah 45

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. 8 “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. 9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’or ‘Your work has no handles’?

God does all that he pleases, and all that pleases him is right and good. God is the Creator of all things, and as Creator, he has the right over all his creation to do with it what pleases him. He can punish, and he can make alive, he is free to show his mercy or his justice. He is sovereign. He has authority to rule and govern his creation in the way that is right and best.

God Cannot…

We need to pause and clarify here. Is there anything that God cannot do? The Bible actually lists several things that God cannot do. Because God is truth, God cannot lie (Heb.6:18). Because God is good, he cannot be tempted by evil (Jas.1:13). Because God is all-wise, he cannot change his mind (Num.23:19; 1Sam.15:29). Because God is perfect, he cannot change (Mal.3:6). Because God is just, he cannot condone sin or let sin go unpunished (Ex.34:7; Prov.11:21). Because God is sovereign, he cannot fail to accomplish all his good purposes (Is.46:9-11). Because God is all glorious, he cannot share his glory with another (Is.48:11). Because God is God, he cannot deny himself (2Tim.2:13). God cannot act contrary to his own nature. God cannot be other than he is. None of these ‘cannots’ limit the power of God. To say God can act contrary to his own nature would be a weakness, not a strength.

Free

God can do more than he does. Creation has not exhausted his abilities. We could conceive of other things which God has the power to do, but that he has not done. Picture a bodybuilder with his wife who has given birth to their tiny baby. As he holds this fragile life in his muscular arms, he has enough power to crush this baby. The fact that he does not is not a limitation to his power. Although he can do it, he is not compelled to do all he is able to do. When we say that he can do it, we mean that he possesses sufficient strength and ability. Although he has the strength, he does not want to do it. We would even be right to say that he cannot do it, not because he lacks the strength, but rather because it is against his will and his desire. He wills to use his strength to protect the infant rather than to destroy it, and he cannot use his strength do do something that violates his own will and purposes.

Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 ​Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 ​He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. 8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; 9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; 10 ​who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, 11 ​Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, 12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

God is omnipotent, or all-powerful, but God is also free, free to use his power in the way he chooses. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does.” He is not obligated or bound in the way he uses his power by anything outside of himself. The only way we can say God is not free is when he has freely bound himself by his own word and promises.

Power to Sustain

God’s power and authority is seen in his creation, but it does not end with creation.

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

Jesus is sustaining all things. Every sub-atomic particle is directly governed by God. Not one molecule in the universe is out of its proper place. God’s power not only created all things that are, but also sustains and maintains those things.

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

Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of his power. He is ensuring that every orbit of every planet around every sun or star and every orbit of every electron around its nucleus is precisely in the course he intends for it. God actively and sovereignly sustains his creation. Speaking of his creatures, Psalm 104 says:

Psalm 104:27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

God gives life, sustains life, and takes life away. Psalm 3 says:

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Do you consider that when you wake up? Every morning that you wake up, thank the Most High God that he sustained you through the night. He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). He is active, intimately involved in sustaining his creation. This should bring us freedom from anxiety. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God vigilantly watches over the most insignificant of his creatures. This should not only give us freedom from fear and worry, but also clothe us with boldness for daring and dangerous advances of the gospel.

Psalm 118:6 ​The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31).

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Power to Redeem

God is able to bring something out of nothing, he is intimately active in sustaining, providentially preserving and protecting what he has created, and he is even able to conquer the hard hearts of his enemies and make them his own.

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

God is demonstrating his power in the gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. …24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The same God who spoke light into existence can create life in hearts that are blind toward him.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 19, a young man approached Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed out to him that he loved his possessions more than he loved God.

Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person whose heart is set on the things of this world to embrace God as his greatest treasure. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him” (1Cor.2:14). The disciples recognized the impossibility for a person who is clinging tightly to this life to release his grip and reach out for God. Impossible, not so much because he cannot, but, like this rich young ruler, because he will not. Yet Jesus speaks hope for salvation, hope even for this rich man.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. God can open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel. This is what the new birth is all about. God says I will “remove the heart of stone from from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek.36:26-27). This is great hope for evangelism even in the most unlikely places, even among the hardest people, for ‘what is impossible with man is possible with God’.

We should stand in awestruck wonder at a God like this. Our hearts should resonate with thanksgiving to our Almighty Sovereign. We should stand in worshipful fear at a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. We should enjoy the happy presence of a God who is never frustrated, who does all that he pleases. We should fearlessly obey this God in whose hands we are, and boldly go to the unreached peoples, confident that our God is mighty to save!

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

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment