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Daniel 11:36-45; Antichrist the Antitype

11/20_Daniel 11:36-45; Antichrist the Antitype Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20221120_dan11_36-45.mp3

We are looking today at the end of Daniel 11. The first 20 verses of Daniel 11 sweep through the coming 360 years of the future history of God’s people and God’s promised land from Daniel’s day, up to the time of a leader who will reign for a brief 11 years, and he becomes the focus of the next 15 verses. Then in verses 36 to the end, the focus leaps forward to the far distant future, to the time of the end, to a coming leader who will be a terrible persecutor God’s people.

Liberal Scholars And Predictive Prophecy

This chapter chronicles the Greek dynasties after Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies ruling Egypt coming from the south of Israel, and the Seleucids ruling Syria and Babylon coming from the north of Israel.

The first 35 verses of the chapter are so detailed, so precise, and fit the events of history as we now know it so exactly, that scholars who don’t believe that God predicts the future conclude that up to this point the chapter is pseudo-prophecy, written by a second century author during the time of the Maccabees; history written after the fact purporting to be prophecy.

Verses 21-35 follow Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ruled from 175-164 BC. But the remainder of the chapter no longer precisely matches any historical events from our perspective like the first half of the chapter did. Verses 40-41 detail an attack from the king of the south, successfully repelled by the king of the north, and then verses 42-43 a victorious campaign against Egypt by the king of the north; verses 44-45 a return to Israel where this king suddenly comes to an end with no one to help him. None of the events described in verses 40-45 happened under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, or any of the following Seleucid rulers, so liberal scholars conclude that from this point on it is prophetic guesses of the kinds of events we might anticipate, but we should not expect any precise literal fulfillment.

Here’s what one author (John Goldingay, WBC, p.305) writes: “But vv 40-45 cannot be correlated with actual events as vv 21-39 can… These facts suggest that v 40 marks the transition from quasi-prediction based on historical facts to actual prediction based on Scripture and on the pattern of earlier events; this continues into 12:1-3. These predictions, then, are not to be read as if they were mere anticipatory announcements of fixed future events; like the promises and warnings of the prophets, they paint an imaginative scenario of the kind of issue that must come from present events. The fact that their portrayal does not correspond to actual events in the 160s B.C. compares with the fact that the Christ event does not correspond to other OT prophecies of future redemption (e.g., Isa 9:1-6 [2-7]). It is not the nature of biblical prophecy to give a literal account of events before they take place.”

God Who Declares the Future

But God himself says:

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

It seems to me a much better conclusion to draw, based on the character of God, and based on the precise fulfillment of every detail in the first 35 verses as history unfolded, that we should expect just as exact a fulfillment of the next 16 verses, and the fact that we don’t see any corresponding fulfillment in history should lead believers to the conclusion that it hasn’t happened yet! All of chapter 11 was future when it was given by the heavenly messenger to Daniel in 536 BC, and this last section is still future from our perspective today.

What Is To Happen In The Latter Days

This shouldn’t surprise us, because the messenger told Daniel in 10:14

Daniel 10:14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

This message is about the latter days. It is for days yet to come. Verse 40 clues us in to this when it locates these events ‘at the time of the end’. And this message is about what will happen to Daniel’s people, the Jewish people in the latter days. Israel is literally in the center of these prophecies, as the kings to the south and the kings to the north trample through the beautiful land, and persecute God’s chosen people.

Chapter 12, which continues the same vision, moves directly on to the resurrection, ‘some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt’. That hasn’t happened yet.

And Jesus refers to these events; to ‘the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel’ and the ‘great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be’ (Mt.24:15, 21) from his perspective as still future.

Composite Pictures in Daniel

Here’s what we have going on so far in Daniel. Imagine a composite sketch where different details and characteristics are added at different times. When you overlay them all you gain a much more complete picture than you get from any one standing alone. In chapter 1 we learn that God gives his own disobedient people into the hand of their enemies to discipline them, yet he still remains faithful to them.

In chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar is given a dream of a statue that outlined coming successive kingdoms of gold, silver, bronze, and iron, with feet and toes partly of potters clay and partly of iron, that will all be crushed by a stone cut out without hands that grew to fill the whole earth.

In chapter 3 Nebuchadnezzar makes a great image and demands that all people pay homage to it under penalty of death, but a few will remain faithful whatever the cost.

In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar, boasting about his mighty power and the glory of his majesty (4:30) is humbled and learns ‘that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will’ (4:17, 25, 32), and ‘he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’ (4:35).

In chapter 5 Belshazzar in blasphemous pride drinking from the sacred temple vessels learns the same lesson; he is killed and his kingdom is given over to the Medes an the Persians.

In chaper 6, we see people conspire against God’s faithful people, and learn that sometimes God allows them to be thrown to the lions, but ultimately God is faithful to his people.

In chapter 7, Daniel himself is given a dream of four coming kingdom beasts, and the final terrible beast had ten horns. Another little horn grew among them, uprooting three of the first horns, and this horn had eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things. Daniel saw the Ancient of Days seated in judgment, and the final beast was killed and authority over all kingdoms was given to the divine Son of Man coming on the clouds of glory. Daniel learns that this little horn makes war with the saints and prevails over them until the Ancient of Days came. He is told:

Daniel 7:23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. 24 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. 25 ​He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 ​But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. 27 ​And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

Daniel is given a vision in chapter 8 of a Medo-Persian ram conquered by a Greek goat whose horn was broken, replaced by four horns,

Daniel 8:9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” 15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”

Daniel is told,

Daniel 8:23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great— but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

The little horn of chapter 7 that replaces three of the ten horns of the final beast is the Antichrist at the end times, and the little horn of chapter 8 that arises from one of the four divisions of the Greek empire is Antiochus Epiphanes, but even the description of Antiochus seems to hold him up as a prototype and go beyond him to fill in details of the composite image of the future Antichrist.

In chapter 9, Daniel is told:

Daniel 9:26 …the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

Here in chapter 11 verses 21-35 describe the career of Antiochus Epiphanes, but again he is held up as a type that goes beyond himself and gives us another layer of the composite image of the future Antichrist. Verses 36-45 move on to talk directly about this future king who will terribly persecute God’s people.

Self-Magnification

Let’s look at what it says.

Daniel 11:36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.

Both Alexander (v.3) and Antiochus the Great (v.16) were said to ‘do as he wills’. But this future king goes beyond. He exalts and magnifies himself above every god. This is satanic. Isaiah 14 says of Lucifer,

Isaiah 14:13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 ​But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

2 Thessalonians picks up this thread:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

God of Fortresses

Daniel 11:38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.

Successfull defense against Egypt in Israel; Jordan escapes

Daniel 11:40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites.

The king of the north is attacked by Egypt, but successfully overcomes, entering Israel. The carnage is massive, but the areas now known as Jordan escape his hand. (map)

Victory over Egypt and into North Africa

Daniel 11:42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train.

He conquers Egypt, including areas of north Africa, Lybia, the Sudan, and Ethiopia. (map)

Retreat to Israel

Daniel 11:44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.

Like Antiochus before him, he is turned back and then vents his fury on Israel. 2 Thessalonians gives these details:

2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Punctuated by Sovereignty

Jesus speaks of this time as the worst time in human history (Mt.24:21). But notice, God is still sovereign. This whole passage is punctuated by the sovereignty of God; v.24 ‘but only for a time’; v.27 ‘the end is yet to be at the time appointed’; v.29 ‘at the appointed time’; v. 35 ‘until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time’; v.36 ‘He shall prosper [only] till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done’; v.41 ‘but these shall be delivered out of his hand’; v.45 ‘Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.’ God is sovereign over all these events.

Why?

But why? Why reveal to Daniel the coming persecution of his people? As Jesus said:

John 14:29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.

God is preparing his people for suffering. He reveals in advance what is coming so that when it comes his people are not surprised. And in it all, he reminds us that he is sovereign; as bad as it gets, he is still in control, that tribulation will be terrible, but it will be short, and it will be worth it. He gets into that in the next chapter, but that will have to wait until next time.

***

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

November 21, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 11:1-20; Israel in the Midst of Nations

11/06_Daniel 11:1-20; Israel in the Midst of Nations; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20221106_dan11_1-20.mp3

Heavenly Warfare

Turn with me to Daniel 11. Daniel 10, 11 and 12 are Daniel’s record of the introduction, contents, and conclusion of his final vision. Daniel 10 gives us a glimpse into the unseen realm of angel forces battling behind the scenes of earthly conflict. The heavenly messenger tells Daniel that he was sent at the beginning of the time Daniel set his face to understand and humble himself before his God, but he was opposed for 21 days by the prince of Persia. This messenger received help from the archangel Michael, the prince of the people of Israel. He was sent to ‘make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days’ (10:14). After his delivery of the revelation, this messenger will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and then the prince of Greece will come.

Chapter 11 verse 1 continues the thought of the end of chapter 10; ‘as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him’. This revelation, according to 10:1 is taking place in the third year of Cyrus the Persian (another name for Darius the Mede). The messenger looks back to the first year of Darius, when he stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

Chapter 5 tells of the wicked Belshazzar’s feast on the night Babylon fell. That night, after the Medo-Persian army re-routed the flow of the Euphrates river, they marched in through the riverbed under the walls to take the city without a fight.

In his first year, Cyrus issued the monumental decree allowing the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their temple, ending their Babylonian captivity of 70 years and reversing the captivity effected by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

But more was going on than anyone realized, even more than the handwriting on the wall. The heavenly warrior with golden belt and eyes of fire came to the aid of Michael as he battled in the unseen realm. There will be more conflict with the prince of Persia, then the prince of Greece will come. This thread is picked up in chapter 12, when, at that time, Michael your prince shall arise.

Four Coming Kings of Persia

Daniel 11:2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece.

Daniel was receiving this revelation in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, around 536 BC. Three more Persian kings will arise; Cambyses 530-522 BC; Pseudo-Smerdis, a usurper who reigned only a short time; and Darius I (Hystaspes) 522-486 BC. And a strong and wealthy fourth king will come, Xerxes I (486-465 BC), who we know from the Biblical record by the name of Ahasuerus, who married Esther. Xerxes or Ahasuerus led a major expedition (probably between Esther chapters 1 and 2) against Greece in 480 BC.

Alexander the Great [336-323 BC]

Althought the invasion was not successful, it stirred up the rage of Greece, and the prophecy skips forward over 130 years and 8 remaining Persian kings, down to a Greek leader who took revenge on the Persians.

Daniel 11:3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. 4 And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.

This was the leopard with four wings and four heads from chapter 7, the male goat from chapter 8 who struck the ram with powerful wrath and trampled him. This is Alexander the Great, who swept down from Macedon and conquered the known world, including the Persian empire, with lightning speed. But he died at age 33 in Babylon, and his newly conquered empire was divided up over the coming years primarily between four of his generals, because his half brother and both of his sons were assasinated.

Israel-Centered Prophecy

The focus of Daniel 11 is on only two of these, those to the north and the south of Israel, because the message of Daniel 11 is about ‘what is to happen to your people in the latter days’ (10:14). Many other battles and events took place, but these were highlighted because they revolved around God’s people.

Kings of the South and the North; Ptolemy and Seleucus

Ptolemy was given Egypt in the south, and Seleucus became satrap of Babylonia in 321 BC. Antigonus ruled much of Turkey and Syria; he expanded into Asia and attacked Babylonia in 316; Seleucus fled to Egypt and became one of Ptolemy’s generals. Ptolemy and Seleucus together defeated Antigonus at Gaza in 312, and Seleucus regained control of Babylon and gradually won control of all of Antigonus’ territory.

Daniel 11:5 “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority.

The south is specified in verse 8 as Egypt, which lay south of Israel, and the king of the South in this passage would be the current king of the Ptolemaic dynasty. The king of the North would be the king north of Israel, the Seleucid dynasty and whoever was currently ruling in Syria.

Ptolemy II, Antiochus II, Laodice and Bernice [250-246]

Tensions grew between the Ptolemy and Seleucus, as Seleucus’ empire quickly outgrew Ptolemy’s. Ptolemy was succeeded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, and Seleucus by Antiochus I and then Antiochus II Theos. Around 250 BC, Ptolemy II attempted to unite their kingdoms through a marriage alliance, sending his daughter Bernice to marry Antiochus II. Antiochus divorced his current wife Laodice and disinherited his two sons Seleucus and Antiochus. About 2 years later, Bernice’s father Ptolemy II died, and Antiochus went back to Laodice, who then had him and the rival wife and her son killed, establishing her own son Seleucus II as king.

Daniel 11:6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported her in those times.

Ptolemy III and Seleucus II [246-241]

Bernice’s brother Ptolemy III Euergetes ruled in place of his father in Egypt. In response to the murder of his sister and nephew, he invaded the Seleucid empire, gained control of much of Syria, and had Laodice killed. He returned to Egypt to deal with an uprising, but carried off much plunder, gold, silver, and images of the gods of the land, and left Seleucus II to rule in Syria.

Daniel 11:7 “And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. 8 He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north.

In 242 BC, Seleucus II attempted to retaliate by mounting an attack on Egypt, but was forced to retreat in defeat.

Daniel 11:9 Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.

Seleucus III, Antiochus III and Ptolemy IV [226-203]

Seleucus II was succeeded by Seleucus III, who was killed during miltary operations in Turkey. His brother Antiochus III Magnus regained Seleucia, and took much of the holy land in 219 BC.

Daniel 11:10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress.

Two years later, Ptolemy IV Philopater sent a large army, defeated Antiochus in the battle of Raphia and reclaimed Israel. Antiochus lost over 14,000 men in that conflict. But rather than press his advantage, Ptolemy returned to Egypt, content with his victory, which turned many of his own people against him.

Daniel 11:11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail.

Antiochus III and Ptoelmy V [202-195]

Antiochus III Magnus pushed to regain much of the old Seleucid empire; he raised an even larger army, made an alliance with Philip V of Macedon, and invaded Egypt.

Daniel 11:13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.

Even within the Jewish community, some sought to advance what they believed was God’s agenda through political maneuvering and military might.

Daniel 11:14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail.

In 199 Antiochus defeated Egyptian general Scopus at Paneas (Caesarea Philippi) pursued him to Sidon, laid siege and forced him to surrender.

Daniel 11:15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand.

Israel and much of the Mediterranean coast even into Asia Minor were now firmly under control of Antiochus and the Seleucid dynasty. But he feared Roman intervention in a direct attack on Egypt, so he pursued a more subtle avenue of control; he made an alliance with Egypt in 197, giving his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to the young Ptolemy V. He hoped she would be a tool he could use against them, but Cleopatra’s allegiance was to her husband, not to her father, and she encouraged an Egyptian alliance with Rome that frustrated the plans of Antiochus.

Daniel 11:16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom, but it shall not stand or be to his advantage.

Antiochus III and Lucius Cornelius Scipio [196-187]

Antiochus instead turned his attention to the coastlands of Asia Minor, invading Macedon, Thrace and Greece. But he was defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae and again near Smyrna. His son Mithridates (known as Antiochus IV, who is the main character of verses 21-35) was taken to Rome as hostage. Antiochus III retured to Syria, force to pay tribute to Rome, and was assasinated in 187 BC.

Daniel 11:18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

Seleucus IV [187-175] and Rome

Seleucus IV Philopator inherited from his father the unwelcome task of paying tribute to Rome, and he had to send his young son Demetrius, heir to his throne, as hostage to Rome in place of his brother Antiochus. Seleucus sent his minister Heliodorus to plunder the temple in Jerusalem to gather funds to pay Rome, but according to 2 Maccabees 3 Heliodorus saw a vision that barred him from entering the temple.

Seleucus was assasinated in a plot by his treasurer Heliodorus in 176 BC.

Daniel 11:20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle.

God Tells the Future Before it Happens

We are only halfway thru this prophecy, but the precision of its details is so accurate that modern day Sadducees who deny the supernatural, deny the miraculous, disbelieve the possibility of God revealing the future before it happens, assume that this must have been written after the events it describes. They assume it must be prophecy written after the fact, written somewhere between 168 and 164 BC, looking back on events and written under a false name to gain credibility,

The problem with dating Daniel to the middle of the second century, aside from the ethical problem of someone lying about what they wrote (which is a huge problem for something to be considered Scritpture), is that the Dead Sea Scrolls contain no less than eight scrolls representing Daniel, which were recognized as Scripture by that community and quoted as Scripture.

Of those scrolls, one dates to around AD 60, one to 60 BC, one to the late 2nd century BC. If Daniel was written in the middle of the second century, that would leave only about 50 years between its writing, and its distribution and recognition as authoritative Scripture by people who likely would have known where it really came from and who really wrote it. This theory of Daniel being written after the fact as if it were prophecy has been decisively overturned by the evidence.

It is easier to believe in a God who knows the future, a God who can tell the future before it happens; a God who says:

Isaiah 46:8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 ​declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Jesus himself referred to these chapters of Daniel and said it was ‘spoken of by the prophet Daniel’ (Mt.24:15).

***

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

November 10, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent; Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1)

12/05_2nd Sunday of Advent; Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211205_advent-zechariah-elizabeth.mp3

Wonder

We were meant to wonder and worship. This season especially is a time when we ought to be filled with wonder and awe at what God has done.

The gospel – the good news – that Jesus came; that Immanuel, God, became human; God with us. And that he came not because we were so good, but because we were so bad, because we were without hope and without God, because we needed rescuing. Jesus came to take our place, to die as our substitute, to bear the penalty we deserve. He came to reconcile our broken relationship with God, to bring us near to God. All of this ought to stop us in our tracks with our jaws dropped and our hearts filled with awe and wonder.

But so often we are distracted; last time we looked at what Jesus told us in his parable about the sower and the soils, ‘the cares and riches and pleasures of life’ (Lk.8:14) grow up and choke out the truth of God’s word in our lives, and we fail to wonder, we fail to worship. Our wonderers are broken.

My goal is not to fill your head with more information or teach you something you don’t already know. My goal in these advent weeks leading up to Christmas is for us to stop, to look, to pause, to behold, to let our jaws drop in wonder, and to worship.

Childless and Godly

Today I want to look at Luke 1, where we find the account of Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older relative of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1:5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

We are introduced to this godly Israelite couple. They were both of priestly lineage, descended from Aaron. They were not sinless, as this story demonstrates (no one is), but they were seeking to obey God, to be faithful, to do what is right. We are told this to remove a question we might have about their childlessness. Children are a blessing from God, and to be childless was sometimes viewed as punishment from God. This couple was old, post-menopausal, past they age of being able to bear children, and they had no child, but this was not punishment or a sign of God’s displeasure. They were both righteous before God.

Temple and Priests and Incense

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.

Zechariah was one of around 18,000 priests, serving the Jerusalem temple in rotation. King David had organized the priests into 24 divisions according to 1 Chronicles 24, each to serve for one week, twice a year. Incense was to be burned on the altar of incense that stood just outside curtain of the most holy place every day, both morning and evening when the golden lampstand was tended (Ex.30:7-8). Zechariah was on duty at the temple and was chosen to enter the holy place and offer the incense on the altar of incense, a once in a lifetime honor.

Angels

Luke 1:11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.

Zechariah was troubled. This is a classic understatement. Remember, the destroying angel killed all the firstborn of Egypt in one night (Ex.12:29; Ps.78:49-51). An angel killed 70,000 Israelites in a day (1Chr.21:12-15) One angel slaughtered 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2Ki.19:35). When angels are described in detail the Bible, they have four or six wings and four faces and are full of eyes (Is.6:2; Rev.4:8; Ezek.1:5-14). The typical human response is to fall on your face in fear and worship (Rev.19:10;22:8).

What Prayer?

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Your prayer has been heard. What prayer? I always assumed it was his desire for a child, but his response to the angel’s promise of a son shows that that was probably the furthest thing from his mind, and something he had long since given up on. More likely it would be the prayer he was offering in the temple as he offered the burnt offerings, a prayer for God to redeem his people Israel (Ps.25:22). We will see more of what was on the heart of Zechariah toward the end of this chapter. Jerusalem was under Roman rule. The hated Herod the Great had been appointed by Rome as king of Judea. This was the Herod who was soon to order the execution of every male child two years old and under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Israel needed a redeemer, and the very appearance of this angel in the temple was indicating that God was answering this prayer.

This is not merely the answer to the longing of a childless couple. Many would rejoice at his birth. The child’s name was to be John – YHWH is gracious. The Spirit of God would empower him to turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. This was the root of the problem. The problem wasn’t the Roman occupation. The Roman occupation was a symptom. God’s people had turned away from him. This promised child would be used by God to turn the hearts of many back to God.

Who is ‘Him’?

The next phrase is interesting – look at verse 17; ‘he will go before him’. This is where grammar gets really important. Who is the ‘he’ and who is the ‘him’ that ‘he’ is going before? The ‘he’ and ‘his’ throughout this passage refers to John. But who is John going before? The nearest antecedent to ‘him’ comes at the end of verse 16 ‘the Lord their God’. He will go before him. John will go before the Lord their God. Pause and let that sink in. John is to prepare the way for the coming of Israel’s God. John will be filled with the Spirit of God to turn people’s hearts to the Lord their God, and John will go before the Lord their God. The Lord God is coming! Coming to Israel! God is going to visit and redeem his people! God is coming down, and John is to prepare the way for him!

The rest of this verse confirms that we are on the right track.

Luke 1:17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

The closing words of Malachi prophesied:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The great and awesome day of the Lord is coming, and God is sending an Elijah to turn the hearts of the people so that when he comes, he does not have to come with complete destruction. God is coming, and John’s role is to ‘make ready for the Lord a people prepared.’

Disbelief

Luke 1:18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

This is the wrong kind of wonder. This is the wrong kind of stunned disbelief. Zechariah wasn’t standing in stunned disbelief, in awestruck wonder, reveling at the revelation of the angel. He was actually disbelieving, doubting, wondering how this could be possible. He was calculating, and his calculations added up to the fact that what the angel said was impossible. He was old and his wife was old – too old to have children.

His ‘I am’ is emphatic. I am an old man. Here’s a big part of our problem. Zechariah was righteous before God; he wanted to honor God, but he was way too focused on himself, what he brought to the table, his own inability; the impossiblity. If he had been thinking less of himself and more of God, he might have remembered another couple, a barren couple, a couple likely much older than he was (Abraham and Sarah were pushing 100), and God said to them in their disbelief ‘Is anything too hard for the LORD?’ (Gen.18:14).

Perspective in the Presence of God

The angel confronts Zechariah’s ‘I am’ with an ‘I am’ of his own.

Luke 1:19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

Gabriel had his focus right. He was one who stood in the presence of God. If you spend your time in the presence of God, you get your focus right. Remember, this interchange was happening in the temple in Jerusalem, the place of God’s presence. Zechariah had this once in a lifetime opportunity to offer prayers in the very presence of God, but his focus on himself eclipsed the presence of God from his view. He was being told good news; the best news ever, from an angel sent to him by God, and he couldn’t believe it.

Word leads to Wonder Leads to Words and Witness

Here’s the thing. The good news, the gospel message, the word of God is meant to lead us to wonder. And our wonder is to be expressed with words. Our wonder at the word of God is meant to be expressed in words and witness. Because of Zechariah’s disbelief, because he was unwilling to receive the word, he would be unable to speak a word. He was given good news – great news – but because he didn’t believe it, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about it.

If we receive the gospel, the good news as truly good and truly true, if we wonder at the gospel with awe and amazement at the goodness of God toward sinners like us, it will be just natural for that wonder to overflow with words. We will want to tell people – everyone – what God has done. We won’t be able to help ourselves – we just have to gossip the gospel. If we are hesitant to speak, it might be because deep down we really doubt. It could be that we have failed to stop and take it in, to catch our breath in wonder at the greatness of the good news.

Luke 1:21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.

Something wonderful was happening, they didn’t know what, but they sensed it, and they were filled with wonder.

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

We’re going to skip ahead nine months in the story, to verse 57

Luke 1:57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.

Here’s some more wondering going on; YHWH is gracious. Why name him that?

Luke 1:64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

After nine months of silent frustration bottled up because of unbelief, he finally burst forth with worship. How frustrating it must have been to have such good news and to be unable to share it. But he learned his lesson, now he believed, and he was brought to worship. And his words created more wonder, and more words. There was fear, there was good gossip, and all who heard laid these things up in their hearts with wonder.

Visited and Redeemed; as Good as Done!

Luke 1:67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 ​as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 ​that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 ​to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 ​the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 ​in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

This reveals some of the things that were on Zechariah’s heart, things he was praying about in the temple that day. God, you made promises to your people. You made a covenant. People hate us. Show us mercy! Save us from our enemies! Remember your covenant! Bring us back to you; bring our hearts back to worship and serve only you.

The Lord God of Israel has visited and redeemed his people. Was this true? Had God visited and redeemed his people? Nine months earlier, God had sent a message by an angel to a priest in temple, bringing good news; good news that God was coming to visit his people. Three months earlier, God had sent an angel to a virgin and told her that she would conceive and bear a son – the Son of the Most High. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, had visited Elizabeth, and by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognized ‘why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (v.43). The Lord had visited his people. Immanuel, God with us, was growing in the womb of the virgin. He would be born to be the redeemer, the one who would save his people from their sins, the one who would be obedient to death, even death on a cross, to save us from our sins. Zechariah was beginning to understand that when God gave a promise it was as good as done. God was good for his word. The act of redemption would take place on a hill outside Jerusalem some 30 years later, but God had

visited and redeemed his people.

Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

You will go before the Lord. The sunrise shall visit us from on high. The Lord God of Israel is coming! God with us. Immanuel. Prepare the way for YHWH! Wonder and worship!

***

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

December 7, 2021 Posted by | advent, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Walk By Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith in a Tree

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

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

Little-Faith [ὀλιγόπιστος]

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

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

Failed Faith or Prayer?

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

Moving Mountains, Uprooting Trees

The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5

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

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

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

Promises of Prayer with Faith

In Matthew 21, Jesus connects faith with prayer.

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

Jesus made some audacious promises to his followers about prayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unbelief and Jesus’ Inability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live by faith/ walk by faith

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

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

He tells the Colossians:

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

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

***

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

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