PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Train Up A Child; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15

05/10/15 Train Up A Child: 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150510_train-up-a-child.mp3

Proverbs 22:6 tells us:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Historical Sketch of Timothy

I want to look this morning, this mother’s day at Timothy as an example of this. Paul met Timothy in Lystra on his first missionary journey around AD 47-49, where Timothy and his mother became followers of Jesus. When Paul returned to the area on his second journey around AD 49-51, he took Timothy with him as a co-worker in the gospel, strengthening the churches.

Acts 16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Timothy was a young man from a divided home. His mother was a believer. His father was not. Timothy became Paul’s companion as he traveled through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, then to Troas in Mysia, then to Phillipi in Macedonia, where Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. Upon release, they went to Thessalonica, then to Berea. Paul was sent from Berea to Athens alone to escape the hostility that followed him there. Silas and Timothy joined Paul briefly in Athens, and then, because Paul was prevented from going back himself, he sent them back to Thessalonica to encourage the believers there.

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. …

Paul traveled alone from Athens to Corinth, and Timothy and Silas rejoined him there (Acts 18:5). They spent a year and a half in Corinth, and in AD 51 Paul together with Silas and Timothy wrote two letters to the church in Thessalonica. They traveled from Corinth to Ephesus, then to Caesarea in Syria and then to Antioch. In AD 52, Paul took Timothy with on his third journey, and they visited the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, and then came to Ephesus. Paul spent 2 years in Ephesus, and around AD 56, he wrote 1 Corinthians. Around that time he also sent Timothy as his delegate to Corinth.

1 Corinthians 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Toward the end of his stay in Ephesus, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), then joined them there. From Macedonia, Paul wrote his second letter to Corinth, and sends greetings from ‘Timothy our brother’ (2Cor.1:1, 19). They traveled from there to Greece, where they spent 3 months, during which, around AD 57, Paul wrote his letter to Rome, and sent greetings from ‘Timothy, my fellow worker’ (Rom.16:21). Paul traveled from there up to Phillipi in Macedonia, but sent Timothy along with others to Troas to wait for him. Timothy accompanied him on several other stops in route to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested, and spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea, before being sent to Rome. In Rome, again Paul was joined by Timothy, and from prison in Rome he wrote Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon, in which he mentions Timothy as co-author. He says to the church in Philippi,

Philippians 2:19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Paul was released and traveled to Philippi in Macedonia, and at some point he sent Timothy to Ephesus to keep the church there on track. He wrote to Timothy from Macedonia around AD 62/63

1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: … 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

By AD 67, Paul, now an old man awaiting execution, was again in Rome, and wrote a final letter to Timothy. He contrasted Timothy with unfaithful and ungodly people.

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.

At the end of this final letter, Paul asks Timothy to come to him in Rome.

2 Timothy 4:9 Do your best to come to me soon. …11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. …13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. …21 Do your best to come before winter.

Character of Timothy

Timothy was a brother, a co-worker, a true child in the faith, a man of proven worth. He was trustworthy, competent, sacrificial, well trained in the scriptures, capable of leadership, a true man of of character. Timothy would be a great role model. We should want to be like Timothy, and we should want our children to grow up to be like Timothy. So often our desires as parents are for our children to grow up protected from the evils of this world, to go to a good school, to find a good spouse, to get a good job, to live in a good house, to have good children, and to visit a lot. That is such a small dream for our children. Such a nearsighted dream. We should want more than a good middle-class life for our children. We should long for them to live lives that matter, that count for eternity, lives of integrity and character over the long haul, lives that bring pleasure to the heart of God. That is the kind of life Timothy’s mother launched him on. What do we know about Timothy?

The Training of Timothy

2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Timothy didn’t grow up in ideal circumstances. Not much is said of his father other than that he was a Greek. It is implied that his father was either not a believer, or just not around. But his mother and his grandmother had a sincere faith. They invested in this young man and passed on their faith to him.

I’ve heard some nonsense of parents not wanting to force kids to believe what they believe, but laying out the options and letting the kids decide for themselves. I believe that is foolish and irresponsible. Think of it this way: when your two year old has a fever, you don’t empty the medicine cabinet onto the kitchen table and say ‘here are the options, you decide’. And it’s a lazy attitude, because what it means is ‘I know raising children to fear and love the one true God is hard work, and I’d rather not put in the effort’. And it’s an arrogant statement, because it presumes that you can persuade them to follow what you believe. You can’t. Only God can create new life in your child, but he has given you the responsibility and the privilege of teaching your kids the truth and leading them in the way they should go and praying earnestly for that work of God in their heart.

Unhypocritical

One thing is clear, you can’t pass on a faith you do not own yourself. It was a sincere faith, an unhypocritical faith. You can’t point your kids in the direction you think is right but you are unwilling to go, and expect them to go there. Their faith dwelt in them. It was at home in them. Theirs was not a Sunday faith. It was a Sunday through Saturday faith. It was a faith that was at home in them 24/7. It was a faith that shaped their actions and attitudes and words when they were in public and private, when others were around and when no one was looking. Paul had seen evidence that Timothy didn’t just inherit this faith, he owned it. It was not just what his family had taught to him; it was what he clung to and what he built his life on and what had proved strong enough to carry him through the storms and trials of life. Timothy’s was a faith without hypocrisy. It was genuine. It was the real deal. It had been modeled faithfully by his mother and by his grandmother. They lived it, and that had a lasting impression on this young man.

The Sacred Writings

Paul says to Timothy in chapter 3

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Timothy had been trained up in the scriptures. He had been taught the truth. From infancy, literally from before birth he had been exposed to God’s written word. That is life shaping! What powerful training for a life of usefulness. To know the scriptures, to know the grand story of which all the stories play a part, the story of a God who always was, a God all powerful, a God who creates, a God who cares for his rebellious creation, a God who is just and holy, but a God who is merciful and compassionate, a God who comes down to provide a way for his wayward creation to be restored to him, a God who sacrifices of himself to heal our hurts and make us whole.

The sacred writings are able. They are powerful. Hebrews tells us ‘the word of God is living and active’ (Heb.4:12). God told Isaiah

Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Timothy had been placed under the powerful influence of the word of God. He had learned, and he had come to firmly believe the truth of God’s word. He was persuaded, he was convinced. He had weighed the evidence and had been won over. It mattered from whom he learned it. His mother, and his grandmother had not just taught it to him or shoved it down his throat. They had lived it before him. They had immersed themselves in the sacred writings. The truth was in them and it had shaped them. They were genuine, without hypocrisy.

The sacred writings, in Timothy’s case, the Old Testament, is powerful to make one wise for salvation. The entire Old Testament is a story of a sovereign God with a good creation gone tragically wrong, and in desperate need of rescue. It is a story of the darkness of human hearts living out from under God’s good rule. It is a story of the devastating consequences of doing that which is right in our own eyes. Even the most well meaning well intentioned people, even the heroes were tragically flawed and broken characters, unable to get it right, in urgent need of forgiveness and healing and help. The scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation by teaching us that

Psalm 14:3 …there is none who does good, not even one.

And

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…

The scriptures make us wise to our need for a Savior. And the scriptures point us to that Savior. The one who is fully man, but so much more than a mere man, the God-man who as man was able to stand in our place and pay our debt, but who being fully divine was able to bear the full fury of God’s infinite wrath against the sins of mankind, Christ Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29)

The scriptures point us to faith, utter and complete dependence and trust on the finished work of another, a champion, one who would fight our battles, conquer our enemies, in whom we have the victory. Trust in the character and nature of God, the one who keeps his word and fulfills all his promises. The one who brings something out of nothing and makes all things new.

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul exhorts Timothy to continue in, to remain in, to abide in the truth of the scriptures. This would enable him to discern truth from error, to set the example, to stand firmly in grace, and to boldly proclaim the truth.

Do we want any less for our kids? Are we willing to expend the energy to train our children, to discipline them, to invest in them, to live unhypocritically before them, to saturate our own souls in the scriptures, to be real with them, and to point them to something so much bigger than ourselves, to encourage them to live for something bigger than themselves, to live to the glory of God, to be useful in the service of Christ?

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

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May 10, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Leaders

01/19/14 Church Leaders Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140119_church-leaders.mp3

We have been looking at the church, the assembly of Jesus-followers, the blood-bought possession of our Lord Jesus, those who acknowledge him as King, who proclaim the good news that Jesus was crucified for sinners, those who make disciples, those who gather together to devote themselves to the apostolic teaching, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus through the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

We looked at church members; that every believer is a member who belongs to the body of Christ, a body part intended to be a connected, healthy, functioning part of the body, each uniquely equipped and enabled to function as a vital part of the body of Christ.

Today I would like to look at those parts of the church body who have leadership responsibilities. What is the relationship between leaders and the rest of the body, and what are the responsibilities of the body to their leaders? What does God expect of leaders in his church, and what should we expect of them? We will look at a number of biblical passages to piece together what it should look like to be a leader in the church.

Pay Careful Attention

Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. He prepares them for his absence, and charges them:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Feel the weight of responsibility laid on the leadership of the church. Wolves are coming. Fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. The responsibility of the leaders of the church is that of a shepherd with a flock. It is imperative that they be alert, diligently persevering in watchfulness. Pay careful attention. First, pay careful attention to yourselves, because he says that it is from among your own selves that men will arise distorting and dragging disciples away. I must keep vigilant watch first over my own heart so that I am not veering off course. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Leaders are to watch over the sheep that have been entrusted to their care. Notice the gravity of this responsibility: care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. If God paid the ultimate price for his church, he would expect us to guard his bride with no less passion and commitment. Notice also where this responsibility comes from. This is no man-made authority; there are no self-appointed leaders. The Holy Spirit has made you overseers. This is a responsibility given by God, and recognized by his church. In this verse we see the care of the triune God for his church. The church was purchased with the blood of the Son, the church belongs to the Father, and the Holy Spirit establishes and enables leaders to care for and protect the church.

Feed my Sheep

After his resurrection, Jesus entrusted Peter with responsibility over the sheep.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Notice well, the sheep do not belong to Peter. Jesus claims them as his own. Jesus says they are ‘my sheep, my lambs’. Jesus entrusts Peter with their care; feeding and tending. The leader who loves Jesus first of all will be sure to keep his sheep well fed.

The Priority of Prayer and the Word over Physical Needs

As the early church grew, tension arose between the physical and spiritual needs of the followers of Jesus. Acts 6 records how they addressed some of these issues.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

People began to complain, to grumble, to murmur, and the focus of attention of the leaders was being diverted to address their grievances. Notice, by the way, that it was not the widows themselves who were doing the grumbling. Others complained on their behalf. The apostles said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’ Pure religion, James tells us, is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). But here we see the priority of the spiritual over physical needs. Prayer and the preaching of the word must not be neglected or interrupted. So they appointed deacons to address complaints and meet physical needs, Spirit-filled men, wise men, men of good reputation. This freed the apostles to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teaching is hard work. It is critical work. It must be a priority in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, a passage we will look at later that outlines the necessary character of church leadership, Paul refers to “the church of the living God” as “a pillar and buttress of the truth”. Truth must be defined, defended, and held to tenaciously. The word must be taught.

Equipping the Saints

Look with me at Ephesians 4. God poured out his undeserved grace on each part of his body to fulfill the purpose he designed for each one.

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here he clearly defines the goal of church leaders. The purpose of gifted leadership in the church body is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pay close attention to what this is saying: who is doing the work of the ministry? The saints, the body of Christ, every believer is doing the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is not delegated to a few professionals. The work of the ministry is the work of the body of Christ, functioning together in unity, each member doing its unique part.

By his grace, God has given gifted leadership to his church to equip the saints. The role of leadership is primarily one of equipping. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This word means to mend, to restore, to perfect, to fit or frame together, to prepare, to perfectly join together. Equipping for growth in the body, equipping for unity, equipping to know Jesus better, equipping for maturity, equipping in Christ-likeness, equipping to detect and resist false teaching, equipping for love. Equipping for the work of the ministry. Every saint, every follower of Jesus is a minister, called to do the work of the ministry. You and I are ministers, servants, intended to serve others for the glory of Christ. The main purpose of those gifted to lead is to equip every believer for the work that they as a part of the body of Christ are called and gifted to do. Think of this as the base where you are issued equipment, where you assemble for tactical training, where you receive marching orders, where you are prepared to be sent out on mission. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul lists the gifts, he repeatedly emphasizes that the gifts are given for the building up of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:3 …one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 …one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 … so that the church may be built up. 6 … how will I benefit you …? …12 …strive to excel in building up the church. …17 … but the other person is not being built up. …19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others …26 … Let all things be done for building up. …31 … so that all may learn and all be encouraged, …40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Each part of the body is functioning properly when each part is all about building up the whole body in love.

Selfish Shepherds of Israel

In the Old Testament,God incriminated the selfish leaders of Israel for not doing what they were called to do.

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Notice on what grounds he accuses these greedy shepherds. They do not feed the sheep. They feed only themselves, they eat the sheep, they use the sheep for their own benefit. They fail to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, or seek the lost. They have failed to protect the sheep from predators, becoming predators themselves. They rule with force and harshness. God will judge these shepherds. They will be held accountable.

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God himself will shepherd his people

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out … and gather them… And I will feed them … 14 I will feed them with good pasture,… There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. …19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? …22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. …23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. …

27 …And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 … they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, … 30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God will seek for and rescue, gather and feed, give rest, bind up, strengthen, bring back, deliver, protect.

Servant Leadership

Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything a shepherd was meant to be. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example.

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Leadership in the church is not about position or power or prestige. Leadership in the church is not about being served; leadership in the church is defined by self-sacrificial service for the good of others.

Qualifications for Leaders

That is why we find the character qualifications for leadership in Christ’s church.

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In his instructions to Titus, he adds:

Titus 1:7 … He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Leaders in the church must be men of character, men who have proven themselves responsible, men who are sound in doctrine, men who are selfless, eager to serve. Leadership in the church is not at all about what you can get; rather it is all about what you can give.

Shepherd the Flock

Peter says this to the leadership in the churches.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter tells the leaders to shepherd willingly, eagerly, as examples; not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not in a domineering way.

He tells those who are younger be subject to the elders; and he tells everyone to be clothed with humility toward one another. Church leaders are to shepherd God’s flock as under-shepherds responsible to the chief Shepherd, the one to whom they will ultimately give account.

Obey, Submit to, and Pray for your Leaders

The author of Hebrews gives instruction to the church.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In this passage he points to the responsibility of the leaders to keep watch over your souls, and he reminds that they will have to give an account. In light of this weight of responsibility of leadership, He commands all of us to be continual in worship, to do good, to share, to obey our leaders, to submit to them, and to pray for them; to make their job pleasant and not painful. He reminds us that God is the great shepherd of the sheep; and God is the one who ultimately will equip you with everything good so that you can do his will. By his unmerited grace, he sees fit to equip the saints for the work of the ministry through the instrumentality of church leaders. God himself is the one who through Jesus Christ will work in each one of us that which is pleasing in his sight. 

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

January 19, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 12; Passover, a Forward-Looking Focus

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101205_exodus12.mp3

12/05 Exodus 12-13 A Forward Looking Focus

Forward-Looking Focus

I want to look at just one aspect of the passover celebration today. There is so much to learn here and we will come back and look at some of the other great things God has for us but today I want to focus on the forward looking focus of the passover. A main purpose of the passover and the feast of unleavened bread was to be a memorial to future generations. If Moses wrote the Torah to the generation of Israelites who were about to enter the land after their parents died off in the wilderness because of disobedience, then a major part of his intention would be to leave them with the instructions they would need to remain faithful to God, to remember the mighty acts of God on their behalf, and to enter in to the reality of their own relationship to God as his redeemed people.

We’ve already seen the forward looking purpose inherent in the mighty acts that God performed. He said at the outset in Exodus 3:15 when he revealed his character to Moses:

Exodus 3:15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

In the eighth mighty act, God explicitly said:

Exodus10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

Now let’s look read the passage with this in mind and take note of how prominent this forward looking focus is.

12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty–first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” 33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

13:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” 3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

Do you see how central and how intentional this purpose to pass on to the coming generations the knowledge of the LORD is? God’s intention in the exodus is:

…that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 10:2)

Intended for Future Generations

God intends to put his greatness on display once for all, to demonstrate his superiority over every other so-called god, and to be known personally by all his people throughout all generations.

From the fast pace of the narrative, it appears that much of these instructions were not intended for the original exodus event. The seven day feast of unleavened bread that continued after the passover event was simply by necessity as the people were on the run and had no time for the luxury of letting their bread rise. But the prohibition of having leaven in your houses for seven days was clearly intended for the Israelites after they had settled in the land and had houses. In fact three times we hear that the instructions are to be followed ‘when the LORD brings you into the land’. The holy assembly on the first day and on the seventh day seems to be instruction on how to memorialize and celebrate the history, not instructions for the exodus event itself. Five times we are told that this is to be ‘observed throughout your generations as a statute forever’ (or similar wording). Three times we are told what to say to our children to explain why we celebrate the way we do. We are not told whether the exodus generation had a four day advance notice to select and observe the lamb before the night of passover. Maybe they did, but the urgency of the narrative implies that this too is primarily intended for future generations. Twice we are told that these celebrations are intended to serve as a note written on the back of your hand or a post-it not stuck to your forehead to serve as a constant in-your-face reminder.

Gracious Object Lessons

God is gracious in his instruction to us. He doesn’t tell us ‘memorize this list of propositions and recite these syllogisms’. He gives us an engaging story and tangible object lessons that we can touch and taste and smell. God is not interested merely that we get our facts and our theology straight. God wants us to know him, to experience him, to be in relation with him. God is real, and each generation must experience his reality for themselves. A special day, a special meal, a special lamb, a unique time and an unique way. It is a feast day, a memorial day, a permanent ordinance. It is costly – a sacrifice, service or labor. It is a vigil or a night of watching. It is a time to remember. And it is a time for telling.

12:26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’

13:8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

13:14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

It’s Personal!

Notice how personal this is. Tell them that he spared our houses. It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt. Remember, the people who will be telling this to their children were themselves children during the days of wilderness wanderings after the exodus. Many were probably born in the desert. It was their parents who experienced the bondage of slavery in Egypt and experienced first hand the strong hand of the LORD in bringing them out of Egypt. But this next generation is to own the experiences of their fathers. It must be personal experience for each successive generation. They are not to say ‘my parents or my grandparents or my great-grandparents were slaves in Egypt and God brought them out’. Instead we are to say ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt’. Each individual must experience the strong hand of the LORD in deliverance personally. I was in bondage in the house of slavery. The LORD brought me out by his awesome deeds.

Only Seven?

Unfortunately there are only seven instances recorded in the hundreds of years of history of the Jewish nation that the passover was kept. Most likely the celebration was kept many times that were not recorded, but is appears that Israel missed out more often than not on this wonderful teaching opportunity. The first recorded keeping of the passover is obviously here in this chapter at its inception

12:27 …And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

One year later, at Mount Sinai, we are told in Numbers 9:1-14 that the people kept the passover.

The next recorded instance is 40 years later, in Joshua 5:10, after this next generation entered the land.

We don’t hear of it again until the time of Hezekiah (715-686 BC) 2 Chronicles 30:1-31:1. It says:

2 Chronicles 30:5 So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed.

Again under Josiah (640-609 BC) in 2 Kings 23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19. We are told

2 Kings 23:22 For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.

2 Chronicles 35:18 No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The final record in the Old Testament of the Passover celebration is found in Ezra 6:19-22 -after the return from Babylonian exile and rebuilding of temple (516 BC). What was intended to be a constant reminder and an opportunity for instruction was for the most part carelessly neglected.

The final time we see this meal celebrated is in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22), where Jesus takes the Passover meal and changes it from lamb and bitter herbs to broken bread and poured out wine – to be done not in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt, but in remembrance of him.

Luke 22:15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Transformation of Time

Notice that this section in Exodus begins with God changing the calendar.

2:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.

God changed the way the people calculated time. Instead of life being scheduled around the agricultural calendar, God intended that his people transform the way they measure time around his redemptive acts. God is proclaiming a New Year celebration. God, who makes all things new (Revelation 21:5), declares the month of the exodus to be the month of the new year. I want you to measure time in relation to my mighty saving acts. This was not the last time the calendar changed because of what God had done. Our entire system of calculating years revolves around our Lord Jesus Christ! This is A.D. – Anno Domini – the year of our Lord. We gather together to worship on the first day of the week because we worship a resurrected Jesus who appeared alive on the first day of the week. Jesus transforms everything!

Does my life revolve around God’s mighty acts that he has done for me? Does my schedule revolve around my Lord Jesus Christ? Am I seizing every opportunity to teach my kids and anyone that will listen about what Jesus has done for me?

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

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 10:1-20

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101114_exodus10_1-20.mp3

11/14 Exodus 10:1-20 Teach Your Children About Bugs (Mighty Act 8)

Introduction:

We are in stage 3 of God’s mighty acts against Egypt. When he introduced this last of his three cycles of three strikes against Egypt leading up to the final death blow, God said “I will send all my plagues on you …so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (9:14). God is acting as kinsman redeemer to his people to rescue them from their evil oppressors, but in the process he is displaying his uniqueness and superiority over all the so-called gods of Egypt. All along, God is demonstrating his boundless mercy and great patience in restraining the full fury of his wrath toward rebellious sinners. He gives warning after warning after warning, and mounting evidence of his sovereign right to alone be worshiped, and multiplied time to repent.

God takes Pharaoh at his word even when Pharaoh doesn’t take God seriously. Things get intolerable so Pharaoh cries out to Moses to plead with God for deliverance. Moses prays and God answers even though everyone involved knows that Pharaoh is not genuine and will not live up to his word. God even reveals to Pharaoh one of his reasons for relenting and sustaining him through this sequence:

9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

God has a global purpose in mind. God is prolonging this contest for the fame of his Name for the good of his people. We see this good purpose expanded in the present section.

God’s Good Purpose in Hardening

10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

This is a sobering passage. God says go, because I have hardened his heart. In fact, this is what God told Moses that he was going to do up front (4:21) “But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go”. Our prayers are naturally ‘Lord, soften hearts, so that when we go there may be fruit’. We want to wait for God to prepare hearts so that our going will be productive and the response to our speaking will be positive. And I believe it is right for us to pray that way. But here God stuns us and says ‘it is because I have hardened their hearts that I want you to go now’. Go, precisely because you will be rejected.

What is God up to here? This is incomprehensible if we are man-centered in our approach to the gospel. If we begin with the infinite value of the human soul, then the highest good is that no souls be lost and we become frustrated and disheartened and feel like failures when we do all that we can and the good news is still rejected and our message is not heeded. But if we subordinate the immense value of the human soul to the infinite value of God’s own glory, we begin to measure fruit and success in ministry differently. When Paul tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, both in heaven and in hell, he tells us that this is ‘to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2:11). God’s glory is the ultimate thing, and while many undeserving sinners will be praising the glorious grace of God, other deserving sinners will be praising the just righteousness of God. God’s righteousness demands that he always act for the greatest good. In the case of Pharaoh, the greatest good is described this way:

10:1 … that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

God’s gracious purpose in the hardening of Pharaoh is ‘that you may know that I am YHWH’. The means to this end was to sustain the Pharaoh in his wickedness so that he could judge the sin of Egypt and come to the aid of his people in such a conspicuous way that the telling of his mighty acts would be passed on from generation to generation. God is here communicating to his messenger that his purpose is much bigger than one isolated conversation. I am acting to put the fame of my name on display in such a staggering way that it impacts all your future generations.

This is the same divine intent we see when God’s ultimate messenger was sent for the very purpose of being despised and rejected and betrayed and ultimately crucified. This is what John says was happening in Jesus’ day:

John 12:39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Praise God for his work of hardening – because God had a bigger purpose in mind. Paul gives us insight into what this grander purpose of God is in Romans 11

Romans 11:11 …through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. …25 Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Praise God for his hardening, so that the Gentiles – friends, that’s us! – so that we Gentiles might come in! God had promised to Abraham ‘in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’. And through the hardening of some of the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, God has extended salvation to us who were outside of his covenant community! We respond with Paul:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Divine Show and Tell – Teach Your Children

10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

This is a powerful demonstration of divine show-and-tell. God says ‘I am acting in a way that I may show and you may tell. God is the main actor and we are called to be his witnesses. That means that he performs the action and we testify to what he has done. God does the astonishing and we get to talk about it.

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,

Notice this is primarily a family affair. You may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson. The ‘you’ is singular – you personally. Not you as a group. This doesn’t mean bring your kids to church so that someone will teach them about Jesus. You, the parent, be a witness to your kids and to your grand-kids. I can’t understand parents who say things like ‘I don’t want to force my kids to believe what I believe – I want to give them the freedom to choose for themselves what path they will follow’. For one, this is an arrogant statement because it assumes that you actually have the capability to force your kids to believe what you believe, which you don’t. Only God can do the work of regeneration in a sinners heart, including the hearts of your kids. You might be able to force them to parrot the answers to specific questions the way you want them to, and you may even get them to repeat some words after you in a prayer, but only God can change their hearts. Not only is this arrogant, but it is foolish. Foolish because while attempting to remain neutral, you are sending a strong message. You are teaching them that there is no such thing as absolute truth and it doesn’t really matter what you believe. Here’s what God’s word says about how we are to train our children:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

First, we are to teach by example. You parents love the Lord. You parents keep God’s word on your heart. First live it. Then teach your children diligently. That describes persistent effort and discipline. And we are told to talk about it all the time. Integrate God into every area of your life. Don’t simply have a ten minute religious lecture about God and the bible before bed. Your whole day should be saturated by your relationship with the Most High, and that will be infectious with your kids. This is a long range multi-generational plan. We must teach our kids in such a way that they become parents who are so in love with God that they raise their kids to raise their kids to raise their kids to know and love Jesus.

But what are we to talk about to our kids and our grand-kids? What is to be the content of our teaching? What do we want them to get? I find the answer this passage gives somewhat unexpected. I think most Christian parents would answer that we should teach our kids the golden rule – to do unto others as you would have them do to you. We should teach them to be kind and nice to everybody. Teach them to love and to turn the other cheek. Teach them to control their temper and behave properly in public. And of course we should teach them that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Listen again to what God says we should pass on to our kids: “tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” Here’s God’s priorities for your child-rearing instruction: teach your kids about the wrath of God. Teach them about God’s justice and about his awesome power. Teach them how God humiliates his enemies. Teach them how he tore Egypt apart and brought massive destruction because of their hard-hearted rejection of the one true God. Teach them that God is a jealous God. Teach them how seriously he deals with sin. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then for God’s sake put the fear of God into their tender little hearts. I think we do our kids a disservice when we tell them only that God is all love and hugs and smiles and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done – we might be in danger of making them think that God condones their sin and will coddle them in their rebellion and will always give them another chance. Don’t shield your kids from the righteousness and justice and wrath and awesome sovereign power of this great God we worship. Let them see that our God is really big enough to deserve our awe and praise. I think this is at least part of the reason for many of the horrific gruesome Old Testament narratives:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Start today. When you go home, talk with your kids about how important it is to know the LORD. Talk about how God humiliated the Egyptians and the awesome signs he performed. Talk about bugs.

Let’s pick up in verse 3:

The Wages of Sin

3 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, 5 and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, 6 and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s fault was that he refused to humble himself before the one true Lord. God is God and Pharaoh is not. It is one thing to acknowledge that God is sovereign. It is another thing to own that God is sovereign over me. This is what Pharaoh refused to do. Pharaoh is in rebellion against his own nature as a being created by and under the rule of the Creator. God has every right to demand from his creation that we acknowledge him as our Creator and Sovereign. Because of Pharaoh’s stubborn rebellion, he must be taught the lesson forcibly. Remember the hail? Yes, Pharaoh surely lost men to the hail, but what he cared about was that there were two crops that survived the hail onslaught. There was still hope for Egyptian agriculture. This plague of locust will eat everything left by the hail. Nothing will be left. Egypt will starve.

7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”

Pharaoh’s magicians had testified that this was the finger of God after mighty act number 3. They suffered from the boils of the sixth blow and are not heard from again. Now Pharaoh’s court officials are turning and testifying against him. They confess that Moses has entrapped and enslaved the Egyptians – captured them and stripped them of their freedom – rich irony in the face of the king’s refusal to release his Hebrew slaves. They advise the Pharaoh to grant their request for release. They even question the wisdom of their king – do you not yet know that Egypt is ruined? In 5:2, Pharaoh refused to acknowledge God and now he refuses to acknowledge that his country is ruined. What Paul says has happened to him:

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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Pharaoh at least bows to the pressure of his counselors and before the plague recalls Moses and Aaron.

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” 9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” 10 But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Pharaoh still thinks he is in a position to bargain with Moses. His starting position was ‘Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and moreover I will not let Israel go (5:2). He demanded that they go and serve him, making bricks without straw (5:18). Then, after the fourth blow, Pharaoh offered to allow the Hebrews to worship their God in the land, (8:25) then he offered to allow them to go, but not very far away (8:28). Now he attempts to limit who will be released. Moses makes it very clear that he is not bargaining. God is making sovereign demands and he expects to be obeyed. Everyone must be released to hold a feast to YHWH. Worship is a family affair. Pharaoh’s response is dripping with sarcasm and a play on the covenant name of God. ‘The I AM will truly be with you when I let you all go’. Pharaoh offers to release only the men and has Moses and Aaron driven out of his presence.

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15 They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

God keeps his word. God is uncreating Egypt. God created green plants and trees bearing fruit. Now he is stripping the land of all vegetation. God is unleashing the forces of nature against nature to consume and destroy.

16 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” 18 So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.

Pharaoh realizes too little too late that his counselors were right. He quickly recalls Moses and Aaron and confesses his sin against them and against the LORD. In the last plague (9:27) Pharaoh admitted that he had sinned or made an error, but this time he names the offended parties and even asks forgiveness. His sin was against YHWH your God and against you. All sin is firstly against the LORD and secondarily against the people we have wronged. Pharaoh aptly describes the consequences of his sin as ‘this death’. The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23), and the stripping of their food supply would inevitably lead to the starvation of all of Egypt. This is a reversal from the days of Joseph, where his brothers who were suffering from famine in Canaan heard there was grain in Egypt. Moses graciously intercedes, and the LORD mercifully relents, driving all the locust into the Red Sea. This too is a foreshadowing of what is to come, when the Egyptian armies are plunged into the Red Sea. There again this same wording will be used – not one of them remained (14:28).

Again God takes credit for the superhuman stubbornness of the Pharaoh. He is being put on display and humiliated by God so that

2 …you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have humiliated (dealt harshly with) the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

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

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psalm 78; The Next Generation

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090830_psalm78_the_next_generation.mp3

8/30/2009 The Next Generation

Psalm 78:1 A MASKIL OF ASAPH. Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Over the summer we have had most of the kids in the service with their parents, and I think that has been good. Stretching at times, but good. It is good to worship as a body and learn and grow together as families. There is a sense of unity that is beneficial, and it gives most of our teachers a much needed break. Next Sunday we launch our Sunday School classes and Children’s Worship, and that too will be good. It is good to give our kids more individualized attention and hands on learning opportunities, and it opens up opportunities for our adults to grow as they step into leadership and teaching roles and learn along side our kids. We just finished up Vacation Bible School, where our kids had opportunities to learn about God and grow, and in a few weeks we will be launching our AWANA program for our elementary kids, with a huge emphasis on Bible memorization. I’m very excited about what we are able to offer for our kids, and I want to exhort you and encourage you in your involvement in these opportunities to serve our Lord Jesus. Jesus said

Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

But I want to remind us that these programs are optional and they are secondary. They are not primary and they are not essential to the life of the church. I could envision a growing, healthy, biblical church that does not have any of these programs. Nowhere in the bible does it say ‘thou shalt teach Sunday school’, or ‘thou shalt have a youth group’. Here’s what Jesus does say:

Matthew 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I think that VBS and AWANA and Sunday school and youth group are good ways of letting the children come to Jesus, but they are not the only ways, and I would even dare to say that they should not be the main ways our kids grow in their relationship with Jesus. Look back at Psalm 78 and see where the responsibility lies: in verse 3 it says ‘things… that our fathers have told us’ and in verse 5 it says ‘he commanded our fathers to teach to their children’. This year I didn’t give a special Father’s day or Mother’s day message. So here it is – a Father’s day and Mother’s day and Grandparent’s day message all rolled into one.

Look back at Deuteronomy, where Moses urged the people of Israel to keep their focus on the centrality and majesty of God. In chapter 4, Moses reminds us of the danger of following other gods, and he warns:

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children––

Keep your own soul diligently, so that you can make God known to your children and grandchildren. In chapter 5, Moses reminds the people of the 10 commandments that God gave, and the central command to fear and love God with all your being:

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, …2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long….4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

You must fear the LORD, you and your son, and your son’s son. It is the responsibility of parents to model and diligently teach the fear and love of the LORD to their children, using any means possible. He tells us again in chapter 11:

Deuteronomy 11:19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

The primary responsibility of passing on a vision of God and his glory to the next generation does not rest on the church or the Sunday school teachers or youth group leaders. The responsibility of raising the next generations to fear and worship the one true God rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents, particularly the fathers. Look back to Psalm 78 at the multi-generational goal of this exhortation:

5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,

We are not simply responsible for training our kids to know and love and serve Jesus. We are held accountable for equipping our kids to lead and teach the generations to come. It is one thing to train someone to have a personal relationship with God; it is another thing to equip someone to train others for leadership. And that is what we are called to do as parents, and secondarily as a church. Kids, that is our prayer for you – not just that you become followers of Jesus, but that you become leaders and point the generations after you to follow your example as you follow Christ.

I’ve heard some nonsense of parents not wanting to force kids to believe what they believe, but laying out the options and letting the kids decide for themselves. That’s an arrogant statement, because it presumes that you can persuade them to follow what you believe. You can’t. Only God can create new life in your child, but he has given you the responsibility and privilege of teaching your kids the truth and leading them in the way they should go and praying earnestly for that work of God in their heart. It’s a foolish and irresponsible statement, because when your two year old has a fever, you don’t empty the medicine cabinet onto the kitchen table and say – here’s the options, you decide. And it’s a lazy attitude, because what it means is ‘I know raising children to fear and love the one true God is hard work, and I’d rather not put in the effort. There is a roaring lion that is seeking someone to devour. Don’t send your kids out into the world with their hands tied behind their back!

Some of you are single mothers, or have an unbelieving spouse. What about your situation? How can you possibly do this alone or in a divided house? Is there any hope when the primary responsibility lies with the father? Let me hold out one example as an encouragement to you: young pastor Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy to continue in the faith he had embraced from childhood.

2Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

But from whom did he learn it? A godly father?

2Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Timothy’s father is not mentioned. It is quite possible that he grew up in a single parent home, or if his father was around, he was no help in the spiritual formation of this young man. And Timothy was called to pastor the church that Paul had planted in Ephesus. Paul called Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, and to set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. He charged him to preach the word, whether that was what people wanted to hear or not. And Paul is convinced that Timothy’s sincere faith was passed to him through his mother and grandmother. By God’s grace a single mom can raise a leader for future generations!

Look back at Psalm 78. I want to focus on the content and goal of the training. What is it we must convey to our children, and what is the response we want to see in them?

Psalm 78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,

So he’s encouraging varied methods of communication; teaching, conversation – words of mouth, parables, and dark sayings or difficult truths. Matthew (13:35) cites this verse as being fulfilled by Jesus teaching in parables.

3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.

These are not only things that we have heard. He says ‘heard and known‘. We are not simply to mimic or parrot a truth, but to ingest and internalize it first. The truth must be known and practiced by the teacher before it can be effectively passed on to the student.

But what is the content that we are to pass on to the coming generation?

4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

The glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. The ‘what’ that we are to pass on is the ‘who’ of who God is. Why should we fear this God and love him with all our heart and soul and might? Because of who he is as seen in what he has done. The rest of the Psalm goes on to recount some of the historical deeds of awesome power and might, like the parting of the red sea, the pillar of cloud and of fire in the wilderness, water from the rock and food from heaven, the ten plagues that he brought on Egypt, and the supernatural conquest of the promised land; but more than that, the thread of his relentless mercy and grace runs through the whole chapter. All these mighty acts of God in caring for his people and yet his people were stubborn, rebellious and unfaithful, refusing him and forgetting what he had done, sinning and testing God, even speaking against him, unbelief and distrust, sin and unbelief, lying, provoking, turning away and acting treacherously, moving him to jealousy with their idols. God’s anger flashed and his just wrath and discipline was poured out, but over and over and over he was gracious and he exercised his awesome power on their behalf; he made a way for them and led them and was a light to their path, he gave them water to drink from a rock and rained down food from heaven, he was compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger; he was grieved; but he turned his anger toward their enemies, he led his people like sheep, guided them in the wilderness, he led them to safety, brought them to his holy land and drove out nations before them and settled them; he chose them and shepherded them.

We are to communicate to the coming generation the great and glorious renown of God – the fame of his name, the sheer terror of his power, the stunningly amazing gift of his grace toward the undeserving. We must communicate who God is in all his majestic awesomeness and soul-satisfying beauty in a way that is compelling.

But what is our goal? What do we want our kids to come away with? Are we shooting for a one year bible certificate that says they know the right answers to all the important questions? Do we want them to be biblically literate so they can teach their own kids who Adam and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Matthew and Paul and Jesus were? Do we want you to be able to list the attributes of God and explain the Trinity?

5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Verse 7 gives the goal of parental instruction – ‘so that they should set their hope in God‘. This is what Peter has been teaching us in 1 Peter. In the first 12 verses he painted a picture of our awesome God and described his great mercy toward sinners, and laid out the riches of the promises that God has made to us, and then he tells us ‘therefore, set your hope fully on grace’ (1:13). ‘So that they should set their hope in God’. How is it that our children will come to set their hope in God? If we don’t set before them the incomprehensibly limitless power of creator God, our kids will hope in superman or the x-men. If we don’t hold out to them the infinite skill and persevering faithfulness of our covenant keeping God, they will set their hope in the next great athlete that comes on the scene. If they don’t see God’s infinite wisdom and care, our kids will hope in human wisdom and the pursuit of knowledge and the advances of technology. If they don’t grasp the absolute holiness of his character and nature, their admiration will fall on another object. If we don’t show them his overwhelming grace toward desperately sick and undeserving sinners, they might even hope in their own intrinsic goodness and worth. We must give them a God who is big enough to be hoped in!

He goes on: ‘and not forget the works of God’. The character of God is most clearly seen in his awesome acts. That’s why much of the bible is narrative – stories. In every piece of history, we should be asking ‘what can I learn about who God is from this story?’ We need to know the stories, because the stories teach us that God is worthy to be hoped in.

The next one is puzzling – framed as opposites: ‘not this but that’. What would you expect? Do not forget, but instead I want you to ??? (remember). Instead he sets obedience as the opposite of forgetfulness and says ‘Do not forget, but keep his commandments‘. Here’s how this works. God commands that we trust in him and hope in him and love him more than anything else and follow him and depend on him. When we’ve seen how he’s been always faithful in the past, it makes sense to hope in him for our future. But if we forget what he’s like, then we might be tempted to disobey him by hoping and trusting in something else. Obedience is the fruit of rock-solid confidence in the character of God. Obedience is embracing the ‘right’ of God. It is God’s right as God to make the rules, and all the rules he makes are right -the best possible rules that bring maximum joy to those who follow them.

We want you children to see God for who he is so that you will set your hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments, and we don’t want you to be like us in the ways we have blown it. This is a humbling way to instruct our children. Kids, don’t be like your dad, because your dad is stubborn and rebellious. (I could hear mom saying that to the kids, but remember, this is coming from the fathers). I am stubborn and rebellious. My heart was not steadfast, and I was not faithful to God. I want you to see God for who he truly is, but I don’t want you to be limited in your pursuit of God by my ineptness and failure in my pursuit of God. Please, children, pass me up in your wholehearted pursuit of holy joy in God. Don’t be stubborn, but be pliable in God’s hand. Don’t rebel against God, but submit gladly to his gracious and good plan. My heart was prone to wander, you fix your affections firmly on God and do not be moved. My spirit was plagued by unbelief – I was not faithful to God. You, see God for who he is, never forget what he’s done, hope in him and keep your faith fully fixed on him.

This is what we want for our kids. We want you to be so captivated by a true vision of who God is that you are gladly surrendered to his authority in your life, that you are rock solid in your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, following where he leads and doing what he calls you to do, trusting that he is good and what he does is right.

Parents, how do we effectively pass this on to our children. I’ve attempted to say it in a way that is compelling, and maybe I’ve gotten some of you fired up about communicating the greatness of God to the future generations. That might last the afternoon. What are some take-home things that we can put into practice that will gain momentum toward faithfully communicating this most important truth to the next generation?

We must experience it.

Our lives must revolve around God as the center of our universe. Our lives will revolve around whatever has the most attraction or pull or gravity. Our actions will reveal our true affections. We must stop and take a fresh look at who God is and re-center our lives around him. We must taste him for ourselves before we can commend him to others.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

We must remember.

We need to be constantly reminded of God’s overwhelming grace that is constantly poured our in our own wretched lives. Look back over God’s undeserved grace to you and be freshly amazed that he extended mercy to a sinner like you.

Finally, we must be humble.

A proud person has something to offer. A humble person is acutely aware of their own insufficiency and willing to receive the free handout of another. We don’t want our kids to hope in us or in the church; we want you to hope in GOD!

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

August 30, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment