PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Hope of Christmas

12/13 Hope of Christmas; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151213_hope-of-christmas.mp3

Out in the fields around Bethlehem, to unsuspecting shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night,

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good news of great joy! Christmas brings a message of good news! Christmas brings great joy! Great joy for all people! Good news of great joy that casts out fear!

So how are you doing this Christmas season? Is your heart overflowing with great joy? Are you free from anxiety and fear? Has the good news totally replaced all the bad?

Great Joy and Great Suffering

If it has, may I suggest to you that you are living in a bubble? Do you watch the news? I don’t, and I am still aware of things like the presidential campaign, the national debt, devastating earthquakes, suicide bombings, school shootings, ISIS beheadings, the war on terror. We live in a world that is messed up and broken. Do you know anyone that is sick? Injured? Fighting a disease? I spoke at two funerals this year. One was a very dear friend who degenerated from a debilitating disease. Good news! Great joy! Fear not! How do we bring together the joy of Christmas and the sick and broken world we live in?

Do we compartmentalize? We have a tree with lights and presents, and we live in relative safety. All is well with me, my family, my friends, my church, and that’s all I really care about? Turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters around the world who are being killed for their faith in Jesus? Turn a blind eye to the pain and despair in our own community?

Or do we despair? The Prince of Peace has failed to bring peace on earth. The Great Physician didn’t heal my friend, my loved one, me. This good news of great joy hasn’t brought me joy. God has failed.

Let me suggest to you that there is a better way. The good news of Christmas is big enough to bring light and joy into the darkest sickest corners of this broken world. The good news is big enough to embrace all the pain and despair in our hearts and infuse life giving hope.

Notice, for a moment, that the Christmas story didn’t exempt its participants from hardship. The angel announced to the shepherds:

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

What?! Shepherds knew what a manger was. A manger is a stone watering trough for animals. Saturated with stable animal slobber. You don’t put fragile newborn babies in unsanitary mangers! Why was the promised Messiah, the Lord, in an animal watering trough?! Because there was no room for them in the inn. Why an inn? Why Bethlehem? Why not back home in Nazareth? Because the Emperor had imposed a tax. Tax? The Emperor? What Emperor? The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Israel was under Roman occupation. This doesn’t sound like good news of great joy for Joseph and Mary! No longer free. Forced by the Roman Emperor to register. Forced to travel right at the time of delivery. Unable to find lodging. Seeking shelter like refugees in a cave.

God didn’t exempt Mary, Joseph, and his only Son from trouble. He could have. But he intentionally sent him into a troubled situation to bring peace in the midst of anguish. A year or two later, after Magi from the East arrive bearing gifts, the young couple have to flee for their lives with the baby to Egypt, and the tyrannical Herod slaughters every male child two years old or under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Good news of great joy? Try to tell that to all the mothers in Judea, weeping, refusing to be comforted (Mt.2:18).

Simeon and Consolation

Let’s learn a lesson from an old man. 40 days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple to offer the sacrifice for purification according to Leviticus 12. There was a man in Jerusalem, Simeon, to whom the Lord had revealed through the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Lk.2:25-26). It is said of him that he was ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’. He was waiting. He was filled with anticipation, longing, eager expectation, hope. He was waiting for consolation, encouragement, solace, comfort. He knew the prophecies. He was waiting. He had hope.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 ​Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 ​Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 ​And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

God will come down and bring comfort to his people.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 ​to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Jesus would bind up the brokenhearted. He would bring comfort to those who mourn. He would bring beauty from ashes.

Isaiah 66:10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; 11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

God will console and comfort and satisfy his people as a mother comforts her child. Have you seen a hungry infant, frantic, frenzied, demanding, inconsolable? And then satisfied, slumped in peaceful rest against his mother, with a trickle of milk running down his chin? This is the picture of comfort and satisfaction he paints for his people. This is what Simeon was longing for, eagerly expecting, anticipating.

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.

Anna and Redemption

Learn a lesson from an old lady, Anna, a prophetess, a widow who continually worshiped God with fasting and prayer. We are told:

Luke 2:38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Just as Simeon finished thanking God and pronouncing a blessing, Anna began to give thanks to God. Fasting and praying continually are indications that you are earnestly seeking something from God. She must have heard Simeon declare ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’. She began to speak of Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Again we see waiting, eager expectation, longing, anticipation. And she was not alone in this waiting. She began pointing all those who were longing for redemption to Jesus. They were waiting for redemption, for ransom. To ransom is to buy back something that once belonged to you, or someone that was sold into slavery to pay a debt (Lev.25:29, 48), or to pay for the release of something that was set apart to be offered to the Lord. (Num.18:16). We have sold ourselves as slaves to sin, and we are powerless to escape.

Psalm 49:6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? 7 Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, 8 for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, 9 that he should live on forever and never see the pit.

We are powerless to do anything about our own situation, and we cannot pay the infinite price for another. Even the riches of the richest man are insufficient to change the eternal consequences of his actions. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

But God says:

Isaiah 44:21 Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. 22 ​I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. 24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

Our Creator is also our redeemer. He can pay the infinite price to blot out the debt of our transgressions and sins.

Psalm 130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

This world is sick and dark and twisted and broken and it is our sin that made it so. We rebelled against a good God and chose to go our own way, and sold ourselves into slavery to sin.

There were still some in Israel who understood the depths of their desperate situation, who cried out to the Lord as their only hope, who expectantly waited and hoped in and watched for the Lord, for his ransom, his redemption.

Good News For All

Christmas is about good news of great joy for all people. No one is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love. When we look around at all those who are desperately sick and evil, murderers, predators, perpetrators, we need to see an opportunity for God’s magnificent grace. No one is too sick, too twisted, too broken, too far gone, that our good Lord cannot reach him or her. The good news of Christmas is that God sent a Savior, a Rescuer, a Redeemer, his only Son, God in the flesh, come down to pay our price in full.

My Need

Christmas is about recognizing our own desperate need and his infinite sufficiency. We must stop pointing fingers at God or at others and own our own guilt before God, recognize that what is wrong with the world is me, and God has set out to rescue me and purchase me and transform me and make me his own.

Receiving The Gift

Christmas is about accepting a free gift. God gave us the infinite gift of his own Son. Gifts cannot be earned. Gifts are to be received. We can do nothing to merit the gift, or to pay the gift back. A genuine gift is in a completely different category than a paycheck. Paychecks are earned; gifts are given freely, generously. Have you received God’s great gift to you? Have you believed?

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Already and Not Yet

Christmas is about anticipation, longing, hope. This world is not as it should be, not as it was meant to be, not as it will one day be. Christ has come, he has paid for our sins, he has begun a good work in us, but it is not yet complete. The expectation of Anna and Simeon has begun to be fulfilled, but it is not yet complete. God will one day make all things new. The grace of God has appeared, but we are still ‘waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. In the mean time we will sin against others, and be sinned against. Romans 8 tells us:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

In this life we may experience tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, we may be killed, we may be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. We should not be surprised at suffering, we should expect suffering. But even in the midst of this, we can be free from fear. Even in the midst of this we can experience great joy. Can any of these things separate us from the love of Christ?

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is good news indeed. This is the hope of Christmas.

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

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December 15, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

July 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:5-12; Making Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God

06/28 1 Corinthians 16:5-12 Making Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150628_1cor16_5-12.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

5 Ἐλεύσομαι δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅταν Μακεδονίαν διέλθω, Μακεδονίαν γὰρ διέρχομαι, 6 πρὸς ὑμᾶς δὲ τυχὸν παραμενῶ ἢ καὶ παραχειμάσω, ἵνα ὑμεῖς με προπέμψητε οὗ ἐὰν πορεύωμαι. 7 οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἄρτι ἐν παρόδῳ ἰδεῖν, ἐλπίζω γὰρ χρόνον τινὰ ἐπιμεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος ἐπιτρέψῃ. 8 ἐπιμενῶ δὲ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἕως τῆς πεντηκοστῆς· 9 θύρα γάρ μοι ἀνέῳγεν μεγάλη καὶ ἐνεργής, καὶ ἀντικείμενοι πολλοί. 10 Ἐὰν δὲ ἔλθῃ Τιμόθεος, βλέπετε ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τὸ γὰρ ἔργον κυρίου ἐργάζεται ὡς κἀγώ· 11 μή τις οὖν αὐτὸν ἐξουθενήσῃ. προπέμψατε δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν εἰρήνῃ, ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρός με, ἐκδέχομαι γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν. 12 Περὶ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, πολλὰ παρεκάλεσα αὐτὸν ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν· καὶ πάντως οὐκ ἦν θέλημα ἵνα νῦν ἔλθῃ, ἐλεύσεται δὲ ὅταν εὐκαιρήσῃ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 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. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity. 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

We are in the closing section of Paul’s letter to Corinth. Here Paul gives some dated information on his travel plans, some closing exhortations, commendation of co-laborers, and personal greetings. This is a section we could easily set aside as totally irrelevant to us and simply move on to more relevant sections. But we know that

Deuteronomy 8:3 …man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

and

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

and

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 complete, equipped for every good work.

So with God’s help, we are going to open this passage together and see what God wants to teach us and how he wants to equip us for every good work.

Travel Plans

Paul communicates to the Corinthians his travel plans. If you remember back at the beginning of this letter Paul addressed the divisions in this church, in chapter 4, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 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. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Some were arrogant, acting as if Paul were not coming to visit. He assures them that his plan is to visit them soon, and he spells out the details of his plans here in the last chapter. He planned to pass through Macedonia first, and then spend some time in Corinth. We know that these plans did not materialize. As we piece together the details between Acts and 2 Corinthians, we see that after he sent off this letter, his plans changed. According to 2 Corinthians 1:15-16, his new plan was to pass through Corinth for a brief visit on his way to Macedonia, then visit them a second time before delivering the collection to the saints in Judea. From Acts 20, we see that what actually happened was that he left Ephesus after a riot, and traveled through Macedonia and then on to Greece, probably stopping in Corinth. According to 2 Corinthians 2:1 (and 13:1-2) this second visit was a painful visit. His authority was questioned and undermined. At some point he wrote them a second letter which was not preserved, and then he writes a third letter that we know as 2 Corinthians, where he answers their accusations of ‘vacillating’ and ‘making plans according to the flesh’ (2Cor.1:17).

Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God

What can we learn from all this? Paul made plans, and he communicated those plans to the churches, but his plans changed. Did you hear the kind of plans Paul made? In 1 Corinthians 4:19, Paul says ‘I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.’ Here at the end of the letter he uses words like ‘I intend… perhaps… wherever I go… I do not want… I hope… if the Lord permits’. Paul is making plans. He is not sitting idle waiting for life to happen to him. He is moving in a direction. He is using his God-given wisdom and insight to make decisions and formulate plans. But all his plans are made under the absolute sovereignty of an all wise and omnipotent God.

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

In making his plans, he was in complete recognition that God is free to thwart, re-direct, hinder, sidetrack, delay, shut down, or completely change those plans. The riot in Ephesus was not part of Paul’s plans. Paul had a will. He had ideas. He had desires. He had plans. But he recognized that those plans were subject to the sovereign pleasure of God to do all that he pleases. Later, in route to Rome, a risky journey by sea late in the season would end in a total loss of the cargo and shipwreck, all in order to bring the gospel to people on the island of Malta. This was certainly not part of Paul’s plans, and he was frustrated that his advice was not heeded to delay the journey and avoid the loss. But God considered those lost people worth more than the value of all the cargo and the ship that carried them.

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Paul understood this,so he made plans, but he said things like ‘perhaps… I hope… if the Lord permits… if the Lord wills.’

James understood this. He writes in chapter 4:

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James warns us of the danger of the arrogance of leaving God out of our plans. He reminds us of the extreme brevity of this life. We have no guarantee of tomorrow. Our lives are like a mist that disappears in a moment. Our lives, our every breath is absolutely dependent on God’s mercy.

Jesus told a story in Luke 12 with a similar point.

Luke 12:16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

This was a fool in God’s eyes. This was a life wasted. Notice the goal in Jesus’ story and in James. The aim is to make a profit, to to store up, to relax, to eat, drink and be merry, to find pleasure in life. The pursuit of happiness apart from seeking our satisfaction in God alone is a fools errand. Contrast this with Paul’s motive in his planning. Paul’s aim is to make Christ known where he has not yet been preached, to equip and encourage and strengthen the believers, to build up the church, to care for the poor. Paul. did everything he did to bring glory to God (1Cor.10:31). He made it his aim to please Jesus (2Cor.5:9). His hope is that ‘Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death’ (Phil.1:20). He did it ‘all for the sake of the gospel’ (1Cor.9:23). And Paul was aware that sometimes God is most glorified in a radical alteration of our carefully thought out plans. It is arrogant to think that we know better than God how to bring him glory. It is wise to plan and think and strategize on how best to bring glory to our great God, but it is wise to do this with an open hand, welcoming God’s wise and sovereign redirection in our lives.

I Hope to Spend Some Time With You

1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.

Notice that it was Paul’s desire to spend some time with the saints in Corinth. Throughout this letter we have sensed his loving care for the believers in Corinth. He doesn’t want to have to pass through town quickly. He wants to stay for a period of time, possibly spending the winter with them, a time that most travel was not possible. This church was full of problems, but he was not trying to keeping his distance. He was moving toward them, seeking to shepherd them through their problems. Corinth was not just a notch in his belt, these were people, people he cared deeply about, people he desired to deepen his relationship with, people he wanted to be with.

It is interesting to note that he assumed their hospitality toward him. They would have to take him into their homes, they would have to feed him, perhaps for the whole winter. Such was Christian hospitality. Not only did it go without saying that they would provide for his needs while he was with them, but he also expected that they would not send him off empty handed. Part of the expectation of Christian hospitality was that his journey when he left them would be provided for by them. This was Christian generosity which overflowed from being treated with abundant generosity by God, and now naturally flowed out to bless others.

A Wide Open Door with Many Adversaries

1 Corinthians 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). He preached in the synagogue, he taught the disciples daily in the hall of Tyrannus, and through this ministry all of Asia heard the word of the Lord. He established elders, he admonished them night and day. He taught both publicly and house to house. He poured into them by teaching and by example. People were being healed and set free from demonic oppression. People who had been involved in the magic arts turned from their old life and burned fifty thousand pieces of silver worth of books. A wide door for effective work had opened to him. Paul recognized the hand of God in opening wide a door for Christ exalting service in Ephesus, and he wanted to remain there to take full advantage of the opportunity. It seems that door closed with the riot instigated by Demetrius the silversmith.

Look what Paul puts together with the wide open door for ministry: ‘And there are many adversaries.’ Why put these things together? We might think that a wide open door for ministry would mean that the adversaries are all taken out of the way. But this is not what Paul expects. He links these two things together in the same sentence. A wide open door for effective work together with many adversaries. In Acts 19 we see that Paul’s preaching in the synagogue lasted three months, but ‘some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation’ (Acts 19:8-9). In Acts 20, we find that during his stay in Ephesus, he served with tears and with trials that happened through the plots of the Jews (20:19). He knew that imprisonment and afflictions awaited him in every city (20:23). Paul warns in 20:29-30 that

Acts 20:29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

There was a wide open door for ministry, and with that came many who opposed it.

Jesus told a story that indicated that something like this was to be expected in God’s kingdom.

Matthew 13:24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

This is what the kingdom is like. Good seed is sown, but an enemy plants weeds among the good seed. They are all allowed to grow together. There is a wide open door for effective work, and there are also many adversaries. Jesus told his disciples:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Just because there is opposition does not mean that we should give up. We should expect that open doors for gospel ministry will go hand in hand with opposition. This gospel opportunity combined with opposition is by design. Paul speaks of the difficulties in Ephesus in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

The opposition is for a good cause. If there were opportunity for effective ministry without any adversity, we might begin to think that we were capable of doing the ministry ourselves. The affliction caused ‘us to rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.’

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12:7 …a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Talk about an adversary! A messenger of Satan was given to harass Paul. This was to prevent conceit. This was intended to keep Paul humbly dependent on God. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Our weakness, even satanic opposition, forces us to rely totally on the all-sufficient grace of God.

Timothy

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.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth when he was unable to go himself.

1 Corinthians 4:16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 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.

Here he gives specific instructions on how Timothy is to be received. He is to be treated well. He is Paul’s co-worker, doing the work of the Lord. See to it that he is at ease, literally without fear among you. Timothy had a tendency to be timid. It would be intimidating to accompany a letter as direct and confrontational as 1 Corinthians. Paul wants the Corinthians to treat Timothy in a way that dispels any fears he might have. He is not to be despised. We see in 1 Timothy, written about 10 years after 1 Corinthians, that Timothy is still being despised because of his youth (1Tim.4:12). This must have been a very young Timothy sent to Corinth, and so Paul gave them clear instructions to treat him well. He was to be shown hospitality. Again he assumes the generosity of the believers to help him on his way in peace.

Apollos

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

It seems that the Corinthians had asked about their eloquent teacher Apollos. This letter started out with Paul addressing the divisions among the Corinthians over their favorite teachers. Some said ‘I follow Apollos’; some ‘I follow Paul’. Paul has affirmed throughout that there is no division or competition between himself and Apollos. He says:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

It seems the Apollos group was hoping for a visit from their favorite. Paul makes it clear that he is not preventing Apollos from coming. He strongly urged him to visit, but it was not the will. Grammatically, this could be referring to Apollos’ desire to come, but more likely Paul is referring back to the sovereign will of the Lord. It was not God’s will that he come now. He apparently had no opportunity. He will come when the time is right. God is in control. If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

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

June 28, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:11-13; You! Take Heed!

05/25 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 You! Take Heed!Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140525_1cor10_11-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν.12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ,13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3 and all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Paul holds himself up as an example. If there is a danger of disqualification even for the apostle, that he might be proven a fraud, shown to be false, how much more must we watch ourselves, to be sure that we stay connected to Jesus, remain believing, continue treasuring Jesus above all else?

Paul holds the Israelites up as an example. Every one of the Israelites shared in the blessings of being part of God’s people. They all were under the protection of God, were being led by God, had experienced his rescue from slavery, their enemies were destroyed by God, they were continually being sustained and provided for by God. But in spite of all the blessings God poured out on them, their hearts remained unchanged. They desired things more than God. Food. Sex. Comfort. Relationships. They were discontent with God and with what he provided. With most of them God was not pleased. That whole generation fell in the wilderness. They had heard God’s promises, but they never received those promises. They didn’t believe God, didn’t trust God, didn’t treasure him. Their bodies were strewn in the wilderness. They never entered into the promises of God.

Presumption is Deadly

These things happened to them as an example for us. As a warning. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall. Every single one of us is in danger of falling. Especially if you are thinking ‘I’m fine, this doesn’t apply to me’. If you think you stand firm, watch out! The Israelites thought they were safe. They had been rescued by God. They had been protected by God. They were being provided for by God. They were God’s privileged people. They presumed on the grace of God. They assumed that it didn’t matter what they did – they were safe. They felt so safe that they allowed their hearts to go after other things, things other than God. They put Christ to the test, speaking out against their God given leaders and going their own way. They grumbled and complained about God’s good provision, betraying a heart discontent with the good gifts God had provided. They felt there was no need to respond to God’s grace, no need for a transformed heart. They fell in the wilderness as a warning to us.

Presumption is deadly. Every moment we must recognize that we are absolutely completely dependent on the mercy of God. Jesus used the illustration of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-11).

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Jesus is the source of everything. As long as we remain in him, connected to him, abiding in him, depending on him, drawing our sustenance and energy and resources from him, we can bear much fruit. But on our own, apart from him, we can do nothing.

We tend to think we can stand. We do not like to depend, we are reluctant to trust, we are too proud to admit we have nothing to contribute. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. If we think we are beyond stumbling, if we think we are capable of standing on our own, then God may very well allow us to fall to show us our need for him, to teach us to depend on him.

Only A Remnant Will Be Saved

Many people say ‘I attend church regularly, I’m a good person, I help others out whenever I can’. Paul warns that most of the church in the wilderness fell in the wilderness and never entered the land.

What Paul says in Romans 9-11 may help us to understand this passage. Because of the unfaithfulness of the mass of Israel, it appears that the promises of God have failed. He says:

Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

He says that the promises of God were never directed toward a specific nationality, as if the mere fact that you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham was enough to include anyone in the promises. John said to the religious leaders of his day:

Matthew 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. It is those who have the faith of Abraham who are true descendents of Abraham. Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 3:6 …Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

Not all those who trace their ethnicity to Israel belong to God’s true people. It is only those who believe. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah in Romans 9:27.

Romans 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

Only a remnant of Israel will be saved, only those who believe like Abraham. It is not connection with a group that matters. Only those who depend on God, trust in him, treasure him. In Romans 11, Paul uses the olive tree to illustrate.

Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

This is the same warning he issues to the Corinthians. Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Do not become proud but fear. Do not be arrogant toward those branches that were broken off because of their unbelief. The whole generation died in the wilderness, as an example to you. You stand fast through faith. Branches were broken off because of their unbelief. God will not spare you if you do not continue depending on and rejoicing in his undeserved kindness. Drink deeply from the nourishing root. Realize your dependence. Stay connected. There is no promise of protection if we turn our hearts away from God and toward other things.

Dangers of Idolatry

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let’s understand this in the context. The Corinthians are flirting with idolatry. They think they are wise. They think they are strong. They think that they are spiritual. They think they are mature. They think that they can participate in idol feasts without being led astray in their hearts. They think think that an idol has no real existence, no power, and on a level they are right. Idols are empty powerless nothings. They are right to not fear the power of idols, but they ought to fear the wrath of God (BECNT). If we go astray in our hearts, if we turn away from God to pursue our own desires, we are in danger of God’s displeasure. We are in danger of being proven false and experiencing the wrath of God.

Idolatry is seldom blatant and obvious. Idolatry is subtle. It creeps in unawares. Very few people wake up one morning and say ‘I’m going to commit idolatry today.’ Our hearts are designed to worship, and when we do not consciously, intentionally worship the one true God with our whole heart, our hearts naturally worship other things. We begin to value people, value things, value relationships more than we value God. That is the essence of idolatry.

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

This is a severe warning not to plunge into temptation presuming that God in his grace will rescue us. Some misuse this passage to say that they can dance on the edge of destruction because God is faithful and he will always provide a way out. But this is exactly opposite the purpose of the passage. This passage warns against presumption and over-confidence. There is danger of being shown to be false. Paul himself says that he exercises self discipline, self control and passionately pursues Jesus with every fiber of his being so that in the end he will not be proven false. The Israelites went astray in their hearts and desired other things, and they fell in the wilderness as a warning to us. This is not a promise that we can plunge headlong into sin and God will always rescue us. This is a promise that the adversity that comes in the path of obedience will always be accompanied by sufficient strength to persevere through it.

Typical Testing

Paul reminds us that every believer experiences temptation. The testing we are called to endure is not extraordinary. Every follower of Jesus will be tested.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

It is not strange that a follower of Jesus will experience the sufferings of Jesus. That is what we should expect. James tells us

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Faith untried remains unproven. In Jesus’ parable about the soils, it was the heat of the sun that demonstrated which plant had deep roots and which had none (Mt.13:6). In his teaching about wise and foolish builders, it was the storm that revealed which house was built on the rock and which was built on sand (Mt.7:24-27). Testing is normal for the Christian.

The Corinthians were facing overwhelming social pressure to conform. In order to separate from all participation in idolatry, they would have to decline dinner invitations, forgo family functions, risk the loss of employment. For the Corinthians, faithfulness to God and a firm stand against idolatry could mean social and financial ruin. This was a difficult test, and the temptation to justify participation in idolatry would be great.

Encouraged with the Gospel

Paul encourages them, reminding them that every believer faces temptation. He does not encourage them with their own ability. Just the opposite, he warns if they begin to think they can stand, they are in great danger of falling. He anchors their hope not in their own character, but in the character of God. God is faithful. That is the gospel. That is the good news. The good news is that it does not ultimately depend on me or my character or my ability. It depends on God and his faithfulness. God is faithful. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability. God is ultimately in control of the testing, and with the testing he provides the exit. The way out is the way through. God is faithful. With the temptation, God will enable you to persevere through it.

So abide in Jesus. Stay connected to Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus. You cannot stand, you cannot bear fruit, you cannot do anything apart from Jesus. Rejoice in Jesus. Draw your sustenance from Jesus. Treasure Jesus above all else. Look away from yourself and look to Jesus. Run the race with perseverance, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus because God is the one who is faithful. 

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

May 25, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:8-13; The Cross Before the Crown

08/25 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 The Cross Before the Crown; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130825_1cor4_8-13.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

8 Ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ, ἤδη ἐπλουτήσατε, χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε· καὶ ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν συμβασιλεύσωμεν. 9 δοκῶ γάρ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν ὡς ἐπιθανατίους, ὅτι θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις. 10 ἡμεῖς μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν, ὑμεῖς δὲ φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ· ἡμεῖς ἀσθενεῖς, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰσχυροί· ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. 11 ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας καὶ πεινῶμεν καὶ διψῶμεν καὶ γυμνιτεύομεν καὶ κολαφιζόμεθα καὶ ἀστατοῦμεν 12 καὶ κοπιῶμεν ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν· λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν, διωκόμενοι ἀνεχόμεθα, 13 δυσφημούμενοι παρακαλοῦμεν· ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα ἕως ἄρτι.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul has brought the Corinthians back to the simple message of the gospel, the foolish message of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners.

He is addressing spiritual pride. He is calling them back to gospel centered humility.

Paul has held himself up as an example of what Christian leadership should look like; he is a field-hand planting and watering seed; a builder constructing a building on the one foundation, an under-rower, propelling the ship forward under the direction of the one Captain. He has used the Scripture to warn them not to go beyond what is written, because all of Scripture demonstrates the folly of human pride. God promises to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1:19; Is.29:14). The only boasting that is appropriate is boasting in the Lord (1:31; Jer.9:24). God’s salvation is beyond what the heart of man could possibly imagine (2:9; Is.64:4). No one understands the mind of the Lord (2:16; Is.40:13). The wisdom of this world is folly with God (3:19-20; Job5:13; Ps.94:11). He invites them to consider what they have that they did not receive. Everything, absolutely everything, every singe thing that they have is a gift, by grace, and it is totally inappropriate, arrogant, ungrateful, and rude to boast in something you have received as if you did not receive it.

Now he uses sharp sarcasm and irony to drive his point home. We might be surprised to see the apostle using sarcasm. Many of us have been taught that sarcasm is sin. Here we find biting sarcasm in God’s inspired Scripture. So when is sarcasm appropriate, and when is sarcasm sin? Charles Hodge, principal of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1851 to 1878, has some very helpful comments on this subject.

That the passage is ironical, and even sarcastic, cannot be denied. This is not the only instance in which these weapons are used by the inspired writers. The prophets especially employ them freely in their endeavors to convince the people of the folly of trusting to idols. The propriety of the use of weapons so dangerous depends on the occasion and the motive. If the thing assailed be both wicked and foolish, and if the motive be, not the desire to give pain, but to convince and to convert, their use is justified by Scriptural examples.” (C.Hodge on 1Cor.4:8).

In this instance, the quarreling and boasting of the Corinthians was both wicked and foolish, and the desire of the apostle was not to crush, but to bring repentance and restoration, so he employs the most biting sarcasm to wake them from their foolishness and bring about a repentant humility.

Three inappropriate attitudes for the present age

First, he sarcastically lists three attitudes that are inappropriate for the present age.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!

The Corinthians act as if they are already satisfied, rich and reigning. These are not bad things for a believer to look forward to, but the fact that the Corinthians felt they already possessed them revealed a deep flaw in their understanding of Christian doctrine and what it means to follow Jesus. Many Christians today share their misunderstanding. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, that he is the King. Jesus paid for our sins, defeated the devil, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of his Father on high. He is the rightful King of the universe. We as his followers are adopted into his family, so that means that we are co-heirs with Christ, the King’s kids, royalty, and so, many conclude, we should live and act like royalty. We should drive the nicest cars, live in the nicest houses, eat the richest foods, have all the toys and the comforts and the pleasures that this world offers. After all, everything in this world, the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, belong to our Daddy, and he loves to give good gifts to his children. The Corinthians, and so many of us, are enjoying the good life.

Already you have all you want! Already we are satisfied, satiated, glutted. The idea is that our stomach, or our life, is crammed so full that we have no room for anything else. It’s that feeling you have after thanksgiving dinner when you’ve eaten so much that those delicious pies which earlier looked so appealing now no longer hold much interest for you. All you want to do is go lay down somewhere and digest. This is not what the Christian life was meant to be. You should not already be satisfied. Your best life is absolutely not now! The best is yet to come, when we will see our King face to face, and we should be hungering, longing, yearning, aching to be with him. Our heart should resonate with the heart of the Psalmist:

Psalms 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Already you have become rich! We have increased in goods. We have a lot of stuff. We live in nice houses, we drive nice cars, we have enough to eat, we spend money on things we don’t need. You might argue, no, we are just barely scraping by. Take a look at this chart by the World Bank’s Branco Milanovic. According to the New York Times, this tells us that “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants” (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/?_r=0 ). That means that everyone here today would be considered rich by global standards. America’s 70 million pet dogs are probably better fed and medically cared for than the world’s 870 million people who suffer from chronic undernourishment. Jesus’ instructions to a rich man who came to him were

Mark 10:21 “…go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus told a story about a rich man in Luke 12.

Luke 12:16 …“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk.12:15). God calls anyone who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God a fool. Those are strong words, and they probably apply to everyone in this room. If God has blessed us with prosperity, he has blessed us so that we can share what we have and give to those in need. Some of us need to simplify our lives so that we can free up resources to give away. Resources in God’s church are like blood in the body, meant to flow and bring life, rather than pool and bring sickness and death.

Already you have become kings! Already you are exercising authority and rule over others. All of us have an opinion. We all think we know what everybody else should be doing. If we are given the opportunity, if we have the power, we leverage our opinion on others.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

We are eager to pronounce judgment, but none of us have all the information or insight with which to render an accurate judgment. All our ruling is premature and partial.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Corinthians were satisfied, rich, and reigning, three attitudes that are inappropriate for this present age. Paul says ‘I wish it were true!’ I wish we were already reigning with Christ, but this is simply not true. Here are some of Jesus’ instructions to his followers found in Luke 6.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

According to Jesus, the appropriate state of his followers now is poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned. Jesus says woe to you if you are rich, full, laughing, and well spoken of. The church in Laodicea was similarly blind to their own true condition. Jesus says to them:

Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

The Apostolic Example

Paul holds Jesus’ apostles up as examples for the church to follow. Actually, he says that God has put them on public display.

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

Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified head down in Rome, Andrew was scourged and tied to an X shaped cross in Greece, James was beheaded in Jerusalem, John was thrown in boiling oil but was unharmed so spent the rest of his days in exile in Turkey, Philip was crucified in Syria, Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) was beaten, flayed, and crucified in India or Armenia, Thomas was lanced and burned in an oven in Greece, Matthew was axed to death in Ethiopia, James was thrown down from the temple tower in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death, Judas (or Thaddaeus) was crucified in Greece, and Paul was beheaded in Rome.

God put the disciples on display as the very last and least. In a Roman triumph, the victorious military commander would lead his troops on parade through the city, displaying the spoils of war, dragging along the most important captives, and last of all the captive slaves, destined to die in the Colosseum at the hands of gladiators or wild beasts for the entertainment of the crowds. Paul puts himself and the other apostles at the end of the procession, on public display to the universe, both men and angels.

We should learn a lesson from the apostles. A frequent argument among them was ‘who will be the greatest in the kingdom?’

Mark 9:35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

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.”

Matthew 18:2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus taught his followers that they must be humble, they must serve others, even giving their lives. The cross must come before the crown, both for Jesus and for his followers.

Three Contrasts

Paul continues his scathing sarcasm with three contrasts between the apostles and the Corinthians, and he holds up six snapshots of the current condition of the life of an apostle.

1 Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands…

The first contrast is between fools for Christ and the wise in Christ. This should remind them of the first two chapters of this book where God’s true wisdom is displayed in the foolishness of the cross. You want to be thought wise in Christ, we are willing to become fools for Christ. The true wisdom of God that is wiser than men is the crass and base message of a bloody Messiah.

The second contrast is between weakness and strength. This again should bring them back to the first chapters of this letter, where the hidden power of God is unleashed through the seemingly weak proclamation of the gospel of the cross. In wanting to come across as forceful and strong, you have abandoned the power of the simple gospel.

The third contrast is between disrepute and honor. The Corinthians are seeking honor and glory, the apostles are seeking to give all glory to Jesus. They are willing to be humiliated for the sake of Christ. What the Corinthians don’t understand is that the way down is the way up. In 2:8, Paul describes Jesus as the Lord of glory, and in 2:7 he says that this hidden wisdom of Christ crucified was decreed by God for our glory. We will be glorified later because in humility we received the message that we were so bad that we deserved death, and that God became flesh so that he could die in our place.

Paul gives six snapshots of what the current apostolic lifestyle looks like in contrast to the already satisfied, rich and reigning attitude of the Corinthians. Rather than already experiencing the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, the apostles right up to the present hour are craving and thirsting and naked and beaten and homeless and exhausted in the demeaning role of laboring with our own hands.

Three Appropriate Responses to Hardship

Seeing that the Christian life follows Jesus’ example of the cross before the crown, and that Jesus promises his followers much difficulty (Jn.16:33), Paul gives three appropriate ways to respond to hardship.

1 Corinthians 4: 12 …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat.

This is the hard stuff of practical application. When someone condemns, blames or criticizes you, what do you do? What is your emotional reaction, and what is your immediate response? Retaliate, vindicate, defend, explain, justify, exonerate. Can you let it go? Can you be silent? Can you go one step beyond and bless that person that trashed you? The word literally means ‘to speak well of’. If someone speaks evil of you, can you speak well of them? Only with the strength that God supplies!

What do you do when you are pursued, persecuted, afflicted, injured, harassed? I am shocked and offended. It’s not right! I want justice to be done! I want it to stop! Can you endure? Can you bear with it? Can you wait? Can you simply hold on in the middle of it? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you!

How do you respond when someone slanders you, vilifies you, drags your name through the mud? Must you clear your name? Can you live with the fact that others might think something about you that may not be true? Can you pray for the person who slandered you? And I don’t mean the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms; ‘O Lord slay the evildoers in thy great wrath!’ Can you implore God for mercy and help for them? Can you bring comfort and encouragement to them? This is exactly what Jesus instructed his followers to do.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Paul concludes with two synonymous summary descriptions of the apostolic ministry.

1Corinthians 4:13 …We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

The present is not the time for fullness, riches and authority, not if we are going to listen to Jesus or follow the example of the apostles. This is an offensive picture. This is the stuff that gets scraped off the plate and goes down the garbage disposal. This is the stuff that gets scraped off your boots after you walk through the farm field. This is the reputation of the followers of Jesus. Are you willing to have this be what people think of you?

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;

let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

(Arthur Bennett, 1915-1994)

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

August 25, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 17:1-7; Testing and Being Tested

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110501_exodus17_1-7.mp3

05/01 Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the Rock

Intro:

God has come to the rescue of his people. They groaned and cried out because of their slavery in Egypt. God promised to bring them out from under their burdens, to deliver them from slavery, to redeem them with mighty acts of judgment, and to take them to be his own people. God ruined Egypt and laid the pride of the Egyptians low, but he preserved and cared for his people. The presence of the invisible God was demonstrated to them in the visible form of a column of fire and cloud. He caused the army to pursue, and when there was no possible escape, he made a path for his people in the middle of the sea. He emboldened their enemies to follow, and he crushed them under the waters. Three days into the wilderness, and there was no water to drink. God tested his people, and when they came to Marah, the water was bitter. The people grumbled, and God made bitter waters sweet by the application of a tree. One month into the wilderness, and they were running out of food. The whole congregation grumbled, wishing to be back enjoying the good life of Egypt, rather than starving to death in the wilderness. God responded to their grumbling with abundant provision; quail for meat and bread for each day covering the ground. He gave them a day of rest each week, where their souls could be refreshed in God. God is testing his people to see if they would be obedient or not.

Here in chapter 17, we see God again testing and training his people, teaching them about himself, and they respond by putting God to the test.

Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

My Perceived Needs

The people are following the cloud-fire manifestation of God as he leads them in the wilderness. Each day they are gathering and eating bread from heaven that God supernaturally provides. God again guides them to a place where there was no water. They have seen God turn water to blood, part the sea and cause dry land to appear; God has turned bitter water sweet, and he has created bread for them out of nothing in the desert. Now they are thirsty. They can’t see any water. So they protest against their leaders. Again they grumble. They are controlled by their own perceived needs. They are entirely self-centered. The world should revolve around me, even God should revolve around me. God should hurry to respond to my every demand. Doesn’t he love me? Everything else takes second place to what I feel that I need right now. Good is defined by what I think I need, when I think I need it.

God has already stated that he is testing his people. He is proving them. He has shown decisively that he is for them, on their side, fully capable of defeating their enemies and providing for their every need. God has good in mind for his people, but the good God has in mind is sometimes different than the good we think we need. ‘I’m thirsty and I want a drink.’ God says ‘I can use your thirst to create character in you, character that is much more valuable than what you think you need right now. You have a physical need that is real and it is urgent. But you have a spiritual need that is just as real and even more urgent that I want to address. Do you trust me?’

Instead of trusting God, the people make their demand. “Give us water to drink. Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us with thirst?” They are not walking by faith in a God who has over and over and over proven himself faithful. They are not trusting God to provide for them. They are not willing to allow God to refine them and develop character in them. They are not willing to allow God to be God and determine what is best for them. They are not loving God more than their own needs. They lack faith and patience and joy. They are not humbly making their request to God. They refuse to depend on God and instead make demands of God.

Putting the LORD to the Test

Moses asks the people “why do you test the LORD” and verse 7 concludes by Moses naming the place ‘quarreling and testing’ because they tested the LORD by saying “Is the LORD among us or not?” The people need to be tested by the LORD because testing demonstrates the areas in which they need to grow and change and be transformed. Testing reveals the character flaws that desperately need attention. But God is perfect. He has no character flaws. He cannot improve. God does not need to be tested. By their complaining and grumbling, the people are implying that God is failing to take good enough care of them. He must not be loving, or he would provide for their thirst. Maybe he is not powerful enough to give them water to drink. He is not faithful to meet their needs today like he did yesterday. He is not wise enough to lead them to the right places. By their grumbling they are putting God on trial, forcing him to prove himself to them. God’s character is being questioned, and they sit as judge to see if God will live up to their expectations or not. They are attempting to manipulate God to get him to perform for them, to blackmail him into doing whatever they ask.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is giving God’s commands to his people. Love God with all heart and soul and might. Do not forget the LORD who has delivered you. Fear the LORD your God and serve him only. Do not go after other gods. Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah (v.16). Jesus quotes this passage from Deuteronomy when tempted by the devil to force his Father’s hand and make him prove himself (Mt.4; Lk.4). We are not to put the LORD to the test, because he does not need to be tested. He needs to be trusted. We need to be tested. We can put our confidence in his proven character and promises that when he tests us it is for our good.

Moses’ Self-Interest

Moses doesn’t do much better than the people he is supposed to be leading.

Exodus 17:4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

Moses is demonstrating that he is also looking out for his own interests. He is afraid for his life. He is not trusting the LORD. God tells him to stop following the people and start leading them.

Exodus 17:5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Moses Strikes the Rock

Moses is instructed to take the staff of God with which he had struck the Nile river and caused it to flow with blood, and he is to strike the rock, and water will come out of it. Moses follows the instructions. Numbers 20 records a very similar event, but toward the end of the wilderness wanderings. In that event, Moses is told to speak to the rock and it will bring forth water. Moses arrogantly disobeys and strikes the rock twice, and disqualifies himself from entering the promised land. What is the big deal? God said that Moses and Aaron rebelled against his command, that they did not believe in him or uphold him as holy in the eyes of the people. The big deal is that the rock was only to be struck once. Paul gives us a hint on the bigger picture in 1 Corinthians 10.

1 Corinthians 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, (Ex.16) 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. (Ex.17; Num.20); For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

The Rock was Christ

They drank from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock was Christ. Moses is an actor pointing to a bigger reality, and when he strays from the script and makes up his own lines, he does violence to the message that the drama is meant to communicate. The Rock was Christ. The Rock was to be struck once, but only once. The word here translated ‘strike’ in the majority of its uses in the bible means to kill. It shows up a couple times in Isaiah, clearly talking about Jesus:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all.

Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Moses is to take the same staff that brought judgment on Egypt, the same staff that made the river Nile flow with blood. In Exodus 4:20 and again in verse 9 of this chapter, it is called ‘the staff of God.’ God says ‘I will present myself on the rock and you shall strike the rock.’ The staff of God’s judgment coming down on God the Son, the sin-bearer. This was to be done in the presence of the elders of Israel. In Matthew’s account of Jesus on the cross, he records:

Matthew 27:41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him

The elders of Israel were witnesses of the Rock being struck to give life to the people.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Living Water

When Jesus spoke to a sinful Samaritan woman beside a well, he said

John 4:10 … “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John records:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Jesus said:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Is the LORD among us or not?

God knows our true need. He hears our self-centered grumbling and diagnoses our heart condition and provides himself as the cure. Jesus addresses our true need, our need for our sins to be forgiven.

In the face of irrefutable evidence, God’s people put God to the test. Supernatural rescue from Egypt, the visible pillar of fire to guide, bread from heaven that was at that very moment meeting their needs, and the people question “is the LORD among us or not?”

John sent his disciples from prison with a similar question for Jesus:

Matthew 11:3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Is the LORD among us or not? Is there evidence? Is Jesus Emmanuel, God with us?

John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all. Believe and have life in his name.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.  

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

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 15:22-27; Bitter Waters Sweet

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110327_exodus15_22-27.mp3

03/27 Exodus 15:22-27 Bitter Waters Sweet

From Worship to Discontent

Last time we watched as the Lord saved his people. They saw his great power, they feared the Lord, they believed in the Lord, and they sang his praises. God is victorious; he is the source of strength; the theme of worship; he is rescuer; proven faithful; warrior, fighting for us; he is self-existent; all powerful; conqueror; he is rightly proud; he is justly angry; he is unrivaled; incomparable; totally set apart; awe-inspiring; he is active in power; he is our faithful lover; our purchaser/ redeemer; our caring guide; he dwells with his people; he is the perpetual king. 72 hours after they see their enemy crushed by God at the Red Sea, after they had praised his awesome attributes in song, now they are grumbling. It did not take God very long to get his people out of Egypt. As we will see, it takes much longer to get Egypt out of his people. But God is faithful. God saved his people by sheer undeserved grace. Now they must learn to walk by faith in that same grace. Here we see an amazing example of his grace toward undeserving people.

15:22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.

The first observation we can make in this passage, is that Moses made the people set out from the Red Sea. They had just seen great victory, and we often want to camp out in the place of victory. But God was guiding by fire and cloud. And he was guiding into the wilderness. The people were understandably reluctant to follow. But God’s purpose was that they move from bondage to Pharaoh into glad service to their true King. They must learn what it is to walk with God and serve him, and that is a lesson that must be learned in the desert. God’s aim was that his people know him, that they know the LORD, and some of God’s attributes are only taught through difficult circumstances. This day they will learn a new name for their God.

We must not be too quick to judge the Israelites. Three days in the desert with no source of water would be disconcerting. They were traveling with families and flocks to water, and a three day supply would be a lot to carry. When water came into sight, they would drink whatever remained and prepare to refill. When they discovered that this water was undrinkable, they panicked. They targeted Moses, the visible representative of God, and they grumbled. They complained. They murmured. The root of this word means ‘to stay the night, to remain, abide, or dwell’. They camped out on their problem. They focused on their situation. They dwelt on their lack and it consumed them. All they could talk about was what they didn’t have.

Ruth and Naomi

The place was named Marah because the water was bitter. Marah is the Hebrew word for bitter. And bitter circumstances made bitter Israelites. There is another naming in the Old Testament, not of a place, but of a person who named herself ‘Mara’

Ruth 1:19 …And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Naomi’s name meant – ‘my delight, beauty, or pleasantness’. She asked that her name be changed from ‘delight’ to ‘bitterness’. She said:

Ruth 1:13 … for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.”

Ruth and her family had moved from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab because of famine. They remained in Moab for about ten years. Her husband and both her married sons died. Her life was bitter, and she blamed God. ‘The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. The LORD has brought me back empty. The LORD has testified against me, the Almighty has brought calamity upon me. The hand of the LORD has gone out against me’. She dwelt on her painful circumstances and delight was changed to bitterness. But this was not the end of her story. When she began to see the big picture, she exclaimed ‘…the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’ (Ruth 2:20). Out of Naomi’s bitter circumstances comes the most beautiful picture of redemption we have in all of the Old Testament. The women whom she asked to call her ‘bitter’, by the end of the story say to her “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ (Ruth 4:14-15). Bitterness was turned to beauty again as Naomi became the great great grandmother to David the King.

Hebrews and James

The author of Hebrews argues that God’s discipline is evidence of his love toward us, and that ‘for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ (Heb.12:11) He goes on to say:

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Bitterness is a highly infectious cancer that spreads rapidly and brings death. God provides bitter circumstances to train us in his grace. We can be teachable and allow it to blossom into righteousness, or we can allow bitterness to fester and erupt in a rottenness that contaminates those around us. Painful circumstances are evidence of God’s grace, an undeserved kindness to keep us looking to him, trusting in him, depending on him. Bitter circumstances can keep us from becoming self-sufficient and complacent and unbelieving. This is how James can write:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Will you look at your bitter circumstances, or will you look through you bitter circumstances? God provides us with circumstances to train us, to test us, to prove us. We can be patient and teachable, keeping our eyes on God and believing that he loves us and has good in store, or we can focus on the circumstances and putrefy in our own bitterness to the harm of those around us. Bitter circumstances do not cause bitterness. They only bring the bitterness that is already in our hearts to the surface so that we can see it and deal with it. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India (1867-1951) wrote:

For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” (Amy Carmichael, If p.46 cited in Jim Wilson, How To Be Free From Bitterness, p.15)

This is what Jesus told us:

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

This was a test

God had saved them and they had seen and believed in him, but now he was sending them into the wilderness, sending them a test to shake them, to see what was really in them.

15:25 …There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

This was a test. You just sang that God is victorious, that God is sovereign over his enemies, that God is sovereign over the waters. Now will you live like you sing? Will your deeds and your attitudes match your words? They were self-centered, and focused on their own needs and what they could see. They had been three days in the desert with no source of water and they began to fear. They saw water and put their hope in what they saw. The water was bitter and they lost all hope and grumbled. God is gently lifting their eyes to look at him. Get your eyes off yourself and your problems and look to me! Your problems are simply a stage for me to show myself strong on your behalf. Listen listeningly to YHWH your God, do what is right in his eyes, give ear to his commandments, keep all his statutes. Get your focus off of you and your perceived needs and get your focus on God and what he wants. Become God-centered in your thinking and feeling. God allows our needs to go unmet to teach us that what we really need is him. He gives us wants to teach us to want him more.

Amazing Grace

God gives his people a promise. If you remain in relationship with me, I will not judge you like I judged the Egyptians. I will not give you what you deserve. I will deal with you out of my grace.

God’s grace is amazing in this passage. So quickly after God’s sovereign rescue of his people at the sea, they are grumbling and complaining, hearts filled with bitterness rather than praise. There is not a word of rebuke here from God. God met their grumbling with provision, with promise and with revelation. God provided for their immediate need. God showed Moses what to do and the bitter water was made sweet. God met their grumbling with a promise. He promised escape from judgment based on relationship. He met their grumbling with self-revelation. He responded by teaching them a new name for himself. He said ‘I am YHWH-Rapha or Jehovah-Rapha, the self-existent one, our Healer; our Physician. This is not the name I would expect in this context. God provided them with a basic need. I would expect ‘Jehovah-Jireh’, the Lord our provider. He is promising exemption from judgment; I would expect YHWH-El-Rakhoom, the Lord our merciful God. Instead we have Jehovah-Rapha – the Lord our healer, our doctor. In Ezekiel 47 this same word ‘rapha’ ‘heal’ is used to describe bitter water becoming fresh. The water is healed of its bitterness. God promises to put none of the diseases on the people in relationship with him that he put on the Egyptians. When we look at the ten mighty acts God unleashed against the Egyptians, most of them would not be described as diseases. Only the sixth plague, boils, and possibly the tenth, the death of the firstborn, could be described as sicknesses or diseases. But what God said he would do throughout the narrative was to cause their hearts to become hard. This fits well with the bitterness we see in this passage. God is the healer of bitter waters, and he is the one who heals our sick hearts that are callous toward God and are consumed so easily with bitterness and self-centeredness. Praise God he is a physician of sin-sick souls! He has the wisdom to properly diagnose my condition, and he has the power to apply the cure. We see this so beautifully in Jesus, the Great Physician.

When some people carried a paralyzed man on his bed to Jesus, Jesus responded ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven’ (Mt.9:2). When a religious leader in Israel came to him under cover of darkness impressed by his miracles, Jesus saw his heart and said to him ‘you must be born again’ (Jn.3:7). When a disreputable sinner came to a well to get water, Jesus pointed her to himself as the source of living water that would satisfy her deepest longings (Jn.4). He confronted the unbelieving Jews who refused to hear him, to honor him, to come to him, to believe in him, to set their hope in him so they can have life (Jn.5). Jesus confronted the crowds who were following him for a free lunch “do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (Jn.6:27). To the Jews who boasted in Abraham he said “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:34-36). To a woman grieving the death of her brother, Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn.11:25-26). When a condemned criminal who was being executed confessed his own sins and recognized the sinlessness of Jesus and cried out to him, Jesus said “Today you will be with me” (Lk.23:43). When Thomas was wrestling with doubts about the resurrection, Jesus said to him “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (Jn.20:27). Jesus, the Great Physician, can see right into the sin-sick condition of our heart and give us himself as the cure.

The Tree

Did you notice how the bitter waters were made sweet?

15:24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

The Lord showed Moses a log. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, this same word is translated ‘tree’ and it is a means for execution of someone convicted of a capital crime. This verse is quoted by Paul in Galatians:

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us––for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”––

Moses threw a tree into the bitter waters and they were made sweet. Jesus became a curse for us by being nailed to a piece of wood. He redeemed us from the curse of the law by paying the death penalty we deserve with the price of his own perfect life. He turned God’s curse into a blessing for us. Peter puts it this way:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The tree that brings healing to hearts bitter with the guilt of sin is the cross. Jesus, the Great Physician, bore our sins, sins of hard heartedness, bitterness, self-centeredness, pride. He bore our sins in his body on the tree. Because of his wounds he is YHWH-Rapha, the Lord our Healer. When the cross is applied to us, it brings death to the bitter bondage of sin, and makes us alive to God in his righteousness.

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Oh, let Christ the Great Physician cure your heart today!

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

March 27, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 5:20-6:5; Accusations Fly – Avoiding the Cross

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100919_exodus05_20-06_5.mp3

9/19 Exodus 5:20-6:5 Accusations Fly; Avoiding the Cross

Introduction:

Moses is God’s chosen instrument to deliver his people out of Egypt and into the glad service of their true King. Moses has reluctantly gone to his people. They responded by hearing, believing, and worshiping God. After this positive reception, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh and demanded release. They were met with a less than favorable response. Rather than belief and worship, the king of Egypt disrespected God by discounting his power and authority.

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

‘Your so-called God has no right to tell me what to do with my slaves.’

Then this shrewd pharaoh institutes a plan that will discredit Moses and Aaron and dishearten his Hebrew slaves. And his plan works. He demands the impossible: gather stubble wherever you can find it in place of the previously provided cut straw, but still meet the same quota of finished product each day.

The Hebrew foremen are beaten because their work crews have failed to meet the impossible demands. In desperation the foremen cry out to the Pharaoh, acknowledging repeatedly that they are his servants, and appeal for relief. But the Pharaoh is a cruel taskmaster and will not listen to their cry for help. He accuses them of laziness and demands them to accomplish the impossible.

5:15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.”

After their appeal to the Pharaoh fails miserably, they turn on Moses and Aaron.

The Accusation of Moses and Aaron by the Foremen

20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

This is a stinging rebuke. Their wording is the typical wording used in the Psalms as a prayer to God for justice. Someone who is being unjustly treated by a superior would cry out ‘The LORD look on you and judge’. ‘I am not in a position to defend my own rights, but may God bring down on your head everything you deserve for treating us so badly’. They assume that Moses and Aaron are guilty because the outcome was not what they had hoped it would be. Their false assumption is that a good God would never allow bad things to happen to his people. They use graphic colorful language – ‘you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us’. They are in a hopeless situation and they only see it escalating to the point where their very lives are at stake.

The irony of this is that in chapter 7, God will make the revered river Nile stink in the sight of the Egyptians, and ultimately, the hands of the Egyptians holding the swords will be washed up on the shores of the Red Sea. But for now, the people who were believing and worshiping have now lost hope and faith and are slandering the leader God has sent to help them.

So what is a leader to do when the people he is called to lead attack him for doing what is right? Things got hard for the people and they turned to Pharaoh for help. Moses steps out in obedience to God and now the people hate him. Look where Moses turns when things get hard.

The Accusation of God by Moses

22 Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Moses says some hard things here. He accuses God of doing evil. He accuses God of not knowing what he is doing. He basically says ‘I told you so – I knew this was a bad idea’. And he accuses God of laziness – doing nothing when something must be done. These are serious accusations. But take note, in spite of all these accusations that he brings to God, he does bring them to God. He doesn’t run, like the Hebrew foremen ran, back to their old taskmaster. He turns to the Lord and brings his complaint before the Lord. Moses turns to the right place. He has some very hard things to say, but he goes to the right place. And notice, God doesn’t strike him dead for asking hard questions. God is not threatened by hard questions. In fact, God honors him by responding to his questions. God could have gotten his feelings hurt and given Moses the silent treatment. He could have gotten angry and started throwing thunderbolts. Instead he responds. But before we look at God’s response to his questions, let’s look at the questions.

Moses asks ‘why have you done evil to this people?’ Before we get down on Moses for asking such a question, let’s try to get into his sandals. Moses has done what God asked him to do. The result is that the foremen have been beaten. That’s evil. The Pharaoh has responded ruthlessly to reasonable requests. That’s evil. The people are now required to do the impossible. They’re sent chasing after stubble blown by the wind in a fruitless effort that is bound to result in failure. That’s evil. The foremen quite possibly might resort to beating their fellow Israelites in an effort to meet the quota and avoid a beating themselves. That’s evil. The people’s spirit has been crushed and they are losing faith and without hope. That’s evil. They are driven to the point of cursing their God given leader. That’s evil. So Moses is looking at the situation, feeling the pain of the situation, and he knows that all this is a direct result of God’s command. So he says – ‘why have you done evil to this people?’ Moses feels that he is more compassionate toward the Hebrew people than God is. He is saying ‘if I were God, I would do things differently’. God, I know how to handle this whole exodus thing. This is amazing in light of the fact that just a few chapters earlier, Moses is coming up with every excuse imaginable to weasel his way out of the call that God is giving him. Now he suddenly feels that he cares about the people more than God does.

Then he says ‘Why did you ever send me?’ His same old argument is still in his mind. I’m not qualified. I’m not the right man for the job. I told you so. Remember, I said ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh’ (Ex.3:11). Remember, I told you they wouldn’t believe me or listen to my voice (Ex.4:1). Remember, I told you I am not eloquent, but slow of speech and of tongue (Ex.4:10) Remember, I said ‘please send someone else’ (Ex.4:13). God, your plan isn’t working because you chose the wrong guy. Now I’m taking the heat from the disgruntled people. Why me?!

Then he says ‘since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all’. God, I’m being obedient. I’m doing my part of the deal. I spoke in your name to Pharaoh. But he’s done evil to the people and you have not delivered your people at all. God, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. You promised deliverance for your people but instead they are experiencing evil at the had of the Pharaoh. It would have been better for them if we had just kept quiet. God, you’re making me look bad. You have not delivered your people at all. Not even a little bit of deliverance. God, I’ve done my part, but you have done nothing at all.

Moses has vented. He’s laid it all on the table and told God how he feels. Now the Lord responds.

The Apology of God

6:1 But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.

God responds to Moses’ accusations. He says ‘Now you shall see what I will do.’ Now is the time. Now, because now nobody is on my side. The Pharaoh is decisively and publicly against setting his slaves free. The people responded with initial excitement and worship, but when adversity came, they gave up hope. They want things back the way they were – a more comfortable slavery. And Moses, my chosen instrument, you are accusing me of evil and laziness and a lack of compassion. Now that nobody is on board with my program, now I can act in such a way that no one will try to steal my glory. God is the hero of this story. Not Moses, not the people, not the Pharaoh. Pharaoh didn’t believe God was capable of setting the people free. The people had given up hope and cursed the man God had sent to help them. Moses accused God of evil and questioned his motivation, wisdom and compassion. Now that no one is on my side, I can act alone. He says ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh.’ I will act. After I am done with Pharaoh, he will use all his power to drive you out, to be rid of you, to expel you from his land.

God does not take Moses’ list of questions and answer them one by one. In fact, he doesn’t directly answer them at all. God doesn’t defend himself against Moses’ accusation that he has brought evil on the people. He doesn’t defend himself against the charge that he picked the wrong man for the job. He doesn’t defend himself against the charge that he has done nothing to deliver his people at all. Instead, he communicates to Moses who he is. Moses’ main problem is that he needs to know God better. So God responds to Moses’ challenges by revealing who he is and what he is going to do. “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am YHWH’”. Moses, you need to know who I am. I am the I AM. The self-existent one. The independent one. The uncaused cause of all that is. I am the active one. The one who is being and doing. I am the God who makes promises and keeps them.

God connects himself with history. This is not a new god on the scene. This is the God who has been active in history. This is the same God who appeared to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai – God All-Powerful. He is the God who made covenant with his people. He made promises to them. But Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had not experienced the fulfillment of those promises. The author of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

The people of the exodus generation would experience God in a new way. They would get to see how God keeps his promises. God made staggering promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Now God is going to display himself in power and fulfill these promises to this generation. God reiterates that he hears – even the accusations of the people toward Moses, he knows, he remembers, and he cares.

Application

We will all face hard things in life. Our tendency is to run back to our old taskmaster. Our false assumption is that because I am a King’s kid, I should be exempt from suffering. We tend to shrink from the cross. The good news of redemption and rescue sounds good until we hear Jesus say:

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

We want to enjoy the crown without enduring the cross. The cross is strong medicine. We would rather die a slow death under the anesthetizing effects of sin than feel the piercing pain of God’s remedy for our desperate and sick condition.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

What we need to be told, again and again and again, is who the hero of the story is. I am YHWH. I will do it. It will be painful. It will cost you your life.

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

(cf. Matt.10:39; Matt.16:25; Mk.8:35; Lk.9:24; 17:33)

Things may get worse before they get better. It may feel like I have abandoned you. You may feel that I have wronged you. You can come to me with any questions. I may not answer all your questions, but I want you to bring them to me. I am good. You can trust me. I will keep my word to you. I will carry you safely through to the other side. What you need to know is me. You need to know who I am. I am the hero of your story. You need to know me.

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

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 1:15-22; Hebrew Midwives and the Fear of the Lord

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100425_exodus01_15-22.mp3

4/25 Exodus 1:15-22 The Hebrew Midwives and The Fear of the Lord

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

We’ve seen that God has made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; promises to bless them and cause them to be fruitful and multiply and through them to bless all the peoples of the earth. We’ve seen the faith of God’s people tested as they have had to wait for what seems like inordinately long periods of time and endure painful adversity and trials as they waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises. God promised to make Abraham into an innumerable multitude and he was childless until he was almost a hundred years old. When he attempted to help God keep his promise by having a son with his servant girl, God said no, his barren wife would be the one to give him the promised son. After Isaac was born, God told Abraham to kill him as a sacrifice on the mountain. Abraham learned that nothing could prevent God from keeping his promise, so he set out in faith to obey, but God prevented him. God chose Isaac’s younger twin Jacob to be the heir of his promises. Jacob was a schemer and bargained for the birthright and stole his father’s blessing, so God kept his promises to Jacob through the scheming trickery of his wily uncle Laban, who swapped the older ugly sister for the younger one that Jacob loved on his wedding night. Jacob was in hard service to Laban for many years, but it was during this time that God increased his family. Jacob’s sons hated Joseph and sold him into Egypt, but it was through this hardship that God intended to save the family of Israel. God put Joseph in charge of Egypt, and brought the family together in Egypt. Now, 400 years later, they are increasing in number as God had promised, but they are slaves in Egypt under a cruel Pharaoh who wanted to reduce their population.

God was blessing his people. The Pharaoh had tried plan A and it had failed. He ruthlessly oppressed the nation of Israel and made them work as slaves. He made their lives bitter with hard service, but the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied. Now the Pharaoh is moving to plan B. He calls the Hebrew midwives into his confidence. If ruthless oppression was not effective in controlling the population, he would add to their affliction the selective secret murder of all the male infants. The picture we have here of Pharaoh is desperate – desperate because in that culture, the monarch of the most powerful country of his day would never hold audience with women, especially women of an inferior race.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”

We see how depraved and black the heart of this Pharaoh was. Pharaoh’s command is completely contrary to nature. Women are the carriers and givers of life, and he was calling on them to become destroyers of life. The role of a midwife was to assist in the life giving process of birth. And he is asking them to slaughter the ones they are bringing into the world.

It is not hard to make application of this today. Doctors and nurses, who have taken an oath to preserve life are called on to become executioners and mercenaries to kill the elderly and the unborn. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be. We each must do what we can to protect the lives of those who cannot protect themselves.

It is interesting that we have the names of these two midwives. Shiphrah and Puah. Shiphrah means something like ‘Dawn’ or ‘Fair’; Puah means ‘Fragrant’ or ‘Splendid’ [Stewart, p.75, cf. Strongs]. They are introduced in a way that carefully identifies them as prominent characters in the events that unfold. This is a striking contrast to the Pharaoh. Pharaoh is not a name but a title, like ‘king’, and good scholars continue to debate and work hard to identify which Pharaoh this refers to. There have been some good guesses, and some seem to make more sense than others, but the bottom line is that although we know much about ancient Egypt and we know the names and history of many of the Pharaohs, we don’t know for sure which Pharaoh this was. Moses could have given his name, but he didn’t. It is deep irony that we have carefully preserved for us the names of these two Hebrew midwives, but we don’t know the name of the most important and powerful monarch of his day. To cause someone’s name to be forgotten is the utmost dishonor. To remember someone’s name forever is extreme honor. God tells Moses how his own name is to be remembered:

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.

All those who seek to make a name for themselves will not be remembered:

Isaiah 2:17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

This is a principle we see in scripture:

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (c.f. 1 Peter 5:5)

In the context of another birth – the birth of the promised deliverer:

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

God moved the mighty Pharaoh off his throne and caused him to not be remembered, but the names of two humble midwives have been remembered for almost 4000 years! Why? Look at what is written of them:

17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.

This is the first time God is explicitly mentioned in the book of Exodus. Genesis opens with ‘In the beginning God’, but in Exodus, God is strangely absent in the opening chapters. God is certainly there and certainly at work, as we have seen, keeping his promises and moving sovereignly and providentially in the lives of his people, but he is unmentioned, behind the scenes. This is the first thing said directly about God, and the fear of God is commended. As the Psalms and Proverb says:

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 112:1 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

Lest we think that this is merely an obsolete Old Testament principle, we see it again as foundational in the New Testament:

Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

If we’re looking for a biblical New Testament church growth model, here it is: walk in the fear of the Lord. The result: the church multiplied.

In the Proverbs, there is a promise connected to fear of the Lord:

Proverbs 10:27 The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.

The fear of the Lord results in life. Life, satisfaction, rescue. But what is the fear of the Lord?

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil, learning to hate what God hates. The fear of the Lord is knowing that God rules all things and will bring a just reward to each person. The fear of the Lord presupposes life after death. The implied threat if the midwives disobeyed the Pharaoh would be physical death. But instead of fearing the king of Egypt, Shiphrah and Puah feared God. They knew that one day they would stand before the God of the universe and give an account. It was more important to them what God thought of their action than what any man thought, no matter how powerful he was. Their chief aim was to please God, even if it had severe temporary consequences.

The fear of the Lord is not theoretical. It has direct practical implications on life. The text doesn’t say that they feared the Lord so they did not fear Pharaoh. That is implied, but what it says is that they feared the Lord so they did not do as the King of Egypt had commanded them. Their fear led to action, and their action had consequences. In their case, fear of the Lord meant direct disobedience to the dictator of the land. Rather than killing the male Israelite infants, they helped them to thrive. As this was an undercover plan with the midwives, it would have taken some time for their obedience or disobedience to his command to become evident. But it would inevitably be known.

18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”

This is the interrogation that precedes execution. When the sovereign king of all the land summons you before his royal court and says ‘why have you done this? Why have you disobeyed my command?’ there is good reason to believe that your life is quickly coming to a close. This would be akin to asking for any last words.

19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”

This sounds like a bold slap in the face to the king and his culture. This is like saying ‘your women are weak. The Hebrew women are strong’. This may have been similar to the prevailing opinion in our culture that you can’t have a baby without a doctor, an anesthesiologist and an epidural. The high society Egyptian women have to be pampered and babied and they were so out of it that they wouldn’t know if their babies were stillborn. These Hebrew women are tough – they deliver their own babies without any help.

Even if these two women hadn’t been habitually and consistently disobeying the king’s command, saying this sort of thing would be the kind of thing that would get you killed for sure. But with the Pharaoh’s plan being an undercover one, this story may have had just enough reality to it that the Pharaoh couldn’t rightly condemn them. Apparently, his plan was for them to deliver the baby, check the gender, and strangle it if it was a boy before he had the chance to cry, so the mother would think it was stillborn. The Pharaoh couldn’t expect these midwives to show up after the mother was holding her baby, take it out of her arms and kill it without blowing the secrecy of the whole operation. Remember, the Pharaoh had said ‘the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them…’ (v.9-10)

20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

This is the first action God takes in the story of Exodus, action on behalf of Shiphrah and Puah. Because of their fear of the Lord as the giver of life, God dealt well with them. Again it is re-affirmed that God was keeping his covenant promises. The people multiplied and grew very strong. Pharaoh’s plan B had also failed. In fact, even the Hebrew midwives, who were probably midwives because they couldn’t have any children, now had families of their own. So rather than a successful reduction of the Israelite population, now even the barren women are bearing their own children and the population is exploding. But the story does not end here with ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. Pharaoh moved on to plan C. As I said before, God’s blessing is not always sweet to the taste. God’s blessing does not make everything pleasant. God’s blessing is fruitfulness in the midst of affliction with the hope of future redemption. God’s blessing was on the Hebrew midwives and God was multiplying his people and making them strong, but opposition intensified.

22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

Pharaoh moves here from undercover operations to overt hostility. He calls on all the Egyptians to take action against the Israelites. First taskmasters, then God-fearing Hebrew midwives, now all his people. In the midst of God’s blessing, persecution intensifies.

This is but another chapter in the drama of redemption. Ever since Genesis 3:15, when God said:

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Satan has been seeking to destroy the promised offspring of the woman. From Cain and Abel, to Pharaoh and the male children, to Herod and all boys under 2, culminating at the cross of our Lord Jesus.

Revelation 12:4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

Satan continues today to try to swallow up God’s people:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

But we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

We can persevere under affliction because this is not all there is! We have been called to his eternal glory in Christ!

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

Jesus prayed:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The fear of the Lord for us today is humbly recognizing what we justly deserve from a holy and righteous God:

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…

And embracing with joy what we have been given in Jesus Christ!

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

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

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 1:1-14; God the Sovereign Promise Keeper

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100418_exodus01_1-14.mp3

4/18 Exodus 1:1-14 God the Sovereign Promise Keeper

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Exodus is a book that moves from bondage to redemption, into relationship characterized by worship. Throughout God shows himself to be the sovereign promise-keeper. That will serve as an outline of the book:

Outline (Longman, p.34):

Redemption: Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage

Relationship: Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law

Worship: Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle

The first word in the book of Exodus is not translated in most English versions. The first word is ‘and’. Right from the beginning, we are told that this is not a stand-alone book, but really chapter two in God’s history of redemption. Exodus continues the story that started in Genesis. The first eleven chapters of Genesis give God’s sovereign working in the ancient world, and the last 39 chapters focus on God’s sovereign working through one man and his family. God chose Abram and made huge promises to him, and he confirmed those promises to his son Isaac and to his son Jacob. God promised that he would make them into a great nation and bless all the nations of the world through them.

The last 13 chapters of Genesis chronicle God’s action in the history of Joseph, favorite son of Israel, who was hated by his brothers, stripped of his clothes and sold as a slave into Egypt. He was falsely accused and imprisoned, but in time God raised him up through his integrity, gifts and wisdom to be the second in command of all of Egypt. God used him to rescue the land from a severe famine, which also brought his brothers down to Egypt from Canaan looking for food. Joseph recognized the sovereign hand of God acting even in his suffering to keep his promises to his fathers.

Genesis 45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

God used Joseph to preserve the lives of the family of the promises, and bring them under the provision and protection of Egypt. In Genesis 46, we have a genealogy of the sons of Jacob or Israel, listing seventy descendants at the time they moved to Egypt. In the original, the first six words of Exodus are identical to the first six words of Genesis 46:8, another reminder that this is the continuation of God’s redemption story which began with creation:

Genesis 46:8 Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons…

What we have in Exodus is an abbreviation and summary of this chapter in Genesis.

(chart: family tree)

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Seventy would be quite a family reunion, but it was not even close to the innumerable multitudes that God had promised. Most of us in this room can count to seventy. God had promised:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God made his covenant with Abram and said:

Genesis 15:5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

After God provided a substitute for Isaac on the mountain, God said:

Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…

To Isaac he said:

Genesis 26:4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

To Jacob he said:

Genesis 35:10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.

So Exodus begins with the descendants of Israel numbering seventy, and Joseph and his brothers died and all that generation to whom God had made promises died. But the promise of God still stands. God had reassured Jacob:

Genesis 46:3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

God promised himself to go down with Jacob to Egypt, to make of him a great nation, and himself to bring him up again. Even in the midst of pain and adversity, God is making good on his promises. It says:

7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

This language clearly points to the fulfillment of God’s promises to multiply the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to become a great multitude. But it points to more than that. The language points back to the creation mandate that God gave to man at the very beginning:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God restated this to Noah after the destruction of the flood:

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. …7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

This is the language used to describe the exponential growth of the people of Israel in Egypt. Jacob clearly articulated that this growth was the work of God himself.

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’

God commands that we be fruitful, but God is the one that makes his people fruitful. Exodus 1:7 could be more literally translated:

As for the Israelites, they grew, they were fruitful, they swarmed, they increased, they got powerful more and more, and the land was filled with them.” (Stewart, p.61)

God was fulfilling his promises to his people. He was making them fruitful and strong and filling the land with them.

Enter the new Egyptian dynasty:

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”

Joseph had rescued Egypt from natural disaster by preparing wisely for the promised famine. The Pharaoh honored him and extended generous hospitality to his family. Now, with a new dynasty in place, old ties were broken and he felt no obligation to honor old agreements. That the new king did not know Joseph does not mean ignorance of his national history so much as lack of a special relationship. He chose to act as though the Israelites were a threat rather than an asset. So he launches a public campaign against the foreigners. He spins things a different way and paints Israel as an internal threat to national security. He says they are too many and too mighty. God had made them fruitful and powerful, but God’s blessing is often perceived as a threat to an unbelieving society. Up to this point in the narrative, Israel was the name of a family. This Pharaoh uses the term here in a new way. He refers to them as a distinct people or nation within a nation. The new king is afraid of the potential threat this people group could pose to his power and position. So he decides to take action to keep them from multiplying and to reduce the potential threat to his dynasty.

God had commanded his people to be fruitful and multiply. Pharaoh, in seeking to keep them from multiplying, will find himself fighting against Israel’s God. He says ‘Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply.’ His language again brings us back to Genesis, where the people gathered on the plains of Shinar in rebellion against God

Genesis 11:3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower in opposition to the name of God. They did not want to be dispersed and fill the earth as God had commanded, rather they gathered themselves together against God. Another detail that ties these two stories together is that they both involved making bricks and building cities. And in both accounts, God directly intervenes.

But God does not instantly make things better. Here’s what the Pharaoh does:

11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.

At the time of Joseph, the Israelites maintained their identity as shepherds, and were even employed by the Pharaoh as contract herders for his royal flocks in the grazing lands of northeast Egypt. The logic seems to be that if we reduce them to meaningless cogs in the machinery of the empire, they would lose heart and cease to be a threat. If they were afflicted with heavy burdens they would have neither the time nor the strength to procreate. They would likely require long periods away from home for the laborers, which would take them away from wife and family, weakening the moral fabric of their culture. Virtually working two jobs, their agriculture would suffer, and they would become more dependent on Egyptian society for the basic necessities to sustain their existence. The Pharaoh’s plan was a brilliant one.

12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.

The plan was logical and should have been effective, except that Pharaoh had picked a fight with God. When you find yourself fighting against God, you are on the losing side. Notice that it does not say that they multiplied in spite of the oppression; rather it indicates that increased oppression led to increased fruitfulness. This has been true of the church throughout her history. In times of peace, God’s people get lazy and take for granted his gifts. As Tertullian (ca. 160-220 AD) observed so long ago, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’ semen est sanguis Christianorum [Tertullian Apologeticum ch. 50, 13]. Oppression directly resulted in increased fruitfulness. The Egyptian people bought into the propaganda of the Pharaoh, and they became terrified of this internal threat to their great country. But things often get worse before they get better. God’s blessing resulted in greater intensity of persecution.

13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

God’s blessing is not always sweet to the taste. The Israelites were being blessed by God. He was making them fruitful in spite of the oppression. God’s blessing didn’t mean freedom from oppression; rather it meant fruitfulness in the midst of affliction with the hope of future redemption. God’s blessing can sometimes be painful in the short term. God’s blessing is not always what we would choose for ourselves. Notice the words that are used:

11 … taskmasters ..afflict … heavy burdens. … 12 … oppressed, …. 13 .. ruthlessly … work as slaves 14 … bitter … hard service, … work… work … ruthlessly … work as slaves.

All this should make us long for deliverance. For rescue. For release. Not that work or service is bad. The repeated demand of God to this Pharaoh was ‘let my people go that they may serve me’ (3:12; 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 24, 26; 12:31). We long to be transferred from a harsh and cruel slave-master to the service of a kind and generous king.

Paul puts it this way:

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We have been purchased:

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We are transferred to a new Master:

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

And that new Master is Jesus:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

April 18, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment