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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 4; Jesus and Nebuchadnezzar

10/03_Daniel 04; Jesus and Nebuchadnezzar; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211003_dan04.mp3

Lessons From Nebuchadnezzar

We’ve been looking for several weeks at Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar’s own account of God’s humbling him. We’ve seen that God is sovereign, that God is able to humble the proud, even a proud dictator like Nebuchadnezzar, and that that is a good and gracious gift. Repentance is a good gift that God gives to those who don’t deserve it. God brought king Nebuchadnezzar to his knees, and Nebuchadnezzar responded with worship.

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

We saw in Daniel a picture of Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies; that although Daniel had every reason to be bitter and resentful toward this arrogant and evil king, he had genuine care and compassion for him; he desired blessing and prosperity for him. He was grieved at the prospect of seeing the consequences of his sins poured out on him.

Daniel 4:27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

We saw that it is the responsibility of rulers to practice righteousness and to show mercy to the oppressed. Failure to do what is right and protect the vulnerable is to sin against God. It is evidence of idolatry, that we believe others exist to be used to serve our own self interests. It seems Nebuchadnezzar was more interested in building monuments for himself than he was in doing righteousness and showing mercy.

Daniel 4:29 …he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

We’ve seen that his refusal to acknowledge God as God or give thanks to him was an offense against God, and that this kind of pride is insane, a loss of reason. Worship of God is the truly rational thing human beings were made for.

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever…

It’s All About Jesus!

Today I want to look back over this account of Nebuchadnezzar, and see how Nebuchadnezzar points us to Jesus, because the Bible is really all about Jesus. I wonder if on the road to Emmaus Jesus taught his two disciples about Nebuchadnezzar. We are told in Luke 24:27

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

All the prophets, including Daniel, point us to Jesus.

How Nebuchadnezzar points to Jesus; Image of God; Dominion

But how does this evil and arrogant king point us to Jesus? Look at Daniel 4:20-22;

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.

When we read that kind of description applied to the wicked tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, conqueror of Jerusalem, plunderer of God’s holy temple, the one who took God’s people captive, the one who heated the furnace seven times hotter and threw the three obedient Hebrews in, it makes us uncomfortable. When we read that his greatness reaches to heaven, and his dominion to the ends of the earth, we rightly feel that this greatness and this dominion does not belong to a mere man, much less a proud idolater, a man of Nebuchadnezzar’s character. Only God is the rightful ruler of all. Daniel rebukes this proud king for failing to do righteousness or to show mercy.

Nebuchadnezzar was given dominion over birds and beasts, to the ends of the earth. This is a clear connection to the creation mandate in Genesis 1; humankind, made in the image of God to reflect the glory of God, blessed to be fruitful and given ‘dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen.1:26-28). Psalm 8 says of mankind:

Psalm 8:6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

This is what man was meant to be, reflections of the glory of God ruling his creation under him, but we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23).

One way the Old Testament points us to Jesus is to recount history in a way that leaves us longing for something more, something better. We have a sense of how things ought to be, and what we see falls so far short. That lack creates in us a hunger for the ideal, the way things were meant to be.

Provider and Protector

King Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a beautiful tree, an abundant tree, that provides food and shelter for all living creatures. He is the source and supply, the provider and protector of all creation.

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, was given a vision of a new and glorious temple in chapters 40-48. In chapter 47, he sees water flowing out of the temple that becomes a great river that flows into the dead sea and makes the water fresh.

Ezekiel 47:12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

The Revelation of Jesus given to John picks up this theme

Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Jesus the Lamb is the one who is to be seated with his Father on the throne. He is the true source of life and protection. Nebuchadnezzar is a dark shadow pointing to Jesus, the greater king.

King of kings

Daniel even addresses Nebuchadnezzar as the king of kings in chapter 2.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

Only God deserves the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory. We hear the title ‘king of kings’ applied to a man like Nebuchadnezzar and we shudder. But as conqueror of the world, with kings of other nations subjected to his rule, the title is accurate. This title is used three times in the Old Testament, twice of Nebuchadnezzar, (Ezek.26:7; Dan.2:37) and once of Artaxerxes (Ezra7:12). But in the New Testament, this title is reserved exclusively for Jesus who is both King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim.6:15; Rev.17:14; 19:16). After the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19,

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus is the true and holy King of kings. Keep in mind, some of the kings that Jesus rules over will not willingly bow to his authority, but all will bow. If you have a view of Jesus that is exclusively nice, then your view of Jesus is wrong. He is indeed merciful, gentle and kind;

Isaiah 42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

But he is also just, and he will judge and make war. His eyes are like a flame of fire. He will strike down the rebellious nations with a sword and rule with a rod of iron. He is the coming King who will right all wrongs and vindicate the oppressed and defenseless. We need a king who is strong, and who uses his strength to protect those in his care and to crush those who do evil. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Exalted and Humbled

Daniel 4:29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you,

King Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself. He built great Babylon as a royal residence for the glory of his majesty. His heart was lifted up; he was full of himself. And he learned that ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing (4:35); and those who walk in pride he is able to humble (4:37). Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride, selfish ambition, he was conceited and considered himself more significant than everyone else.

Contrast this with Jesus. Philippians 2 says:

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Nebuchadnezzar through selfish ambition lifted himself up, made a name for himself, made himself great. He refused to humble himself before God, and God humbled him.

Jesus, being eternally equal with his Father, did not cling to the glory of his position, but willingly became nothing. Nebuchadnezzar went from king of the world to a beast eating grass. But Jesus stooped infinitely lower; being Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, being one with his Father, he became human. He entered his own creation as a servant, ‘despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Is.53:3). He was rejected by his own people, abandoned by his friends, falsely accused and executed as a criminal.

Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself; but Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

God humiliated proud Nebuchadnezzar, but God exalted his Son high above every other name.

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Worship of the Nations

Back in chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship his golden image (3:4-7). But in chapter 7, Daniel is given a vision of

Daniel 7:13 …one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

In Revelation 5, we see the Lamb who had been slain standing, and all in heaven fell down before him:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

And in Revelation 7,

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29), the Lamb who was slain to ransom people for God, Jesus, the one who is God and who became man, Jesus the Lamb who died and is now alive is worthy of worship from every angel, every seraph, from all peoples, nations and languages. Jesus is worthy! Jesus is worthy of our worship!

***

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

October 9, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise

09/26_Daniel 04:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210926_dan04_28-37.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that made him afraid and alarmed. All his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers were unable (or unwilling) to give him the interpretation to his dream. Finally Daniel appeared before him. The king knew there was something different about Daniel. In fact, 3 times he repeats (in verses 8, 9 and 18) that ‘the spirit of the holy gods is in you’. He expressed confidence that Daniel, unlike his other wise men, would be able to tell him his dream.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Daniel understood that the dream was God’s warning, indicating bad news was coming, and Daniel was concerned for the well being of the king. He genuinely cared about this wicked king, and didn’t want to see him humiliated.

God’s Gift of Authority

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness had grown to heaven and his dominion to the ends of the earth, but all this was a gift of God to him. In chapter 2, Daniel made clear that

Daniel 2:37 …the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…

Glory and Thanks Owed to the Giver

God had given power, might, and glory to Nebuchadnezzar. God had given to him authority over all living. This was a great gift, great responsibility, and a great gift deserves a great response. Romans 1 (18,21) tells us that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness and ungodliness of unthankfulness. Daniel encouraged the king to practice righteousness; the right thing when given a great gift, is to acknowledge the giver. But we tend toward stealing glory for ourselves as if there were no God and we deserve it all. Romans 1:21 could have been written directly for Nebuchadnezzar.

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man…

Nebuchadnezzar had been given authority and power by God. He knew this, but he refused to honor God as God or give him thanks. Instead, in his folly, he built a 90 foot image of gold and demanded worship of the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He was a glory stealer. Daniel here calls the king to repent and practice righteousness, giving glory to God. But he would not. His response to Daniel’s rebuke is not given. If he did listen, it was short lived and didn’t last. In verse 28 the story jumps ahead one year.

Pride and Fulfillment of the Vision

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

Do you hear the first person singular ‘I, me, my’? ‘I have built by my mighty power …for the glory of my majesty’. Understand, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was expansive and his rule was glorious. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world; the massive walls of Babylon and the famous hanging gardens.

Josephus [Against Apion; 1:19:(141)], quotes Berosus’ History of Ancient Times. [Berosus was a Chaldean priest of Bel Marduk in Babylon at the beginning of the 3rd century BC]. He writes of Nebuchadnezzar:

“but for himself, he adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples, after an elegant manner, out of the spoils he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored Babylon, that none who should besiege it afterwards might have it in their power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it; and this he did by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer. Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick only. So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently [slide: Ishtar gate], he added a new palace to that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. It would perhaps require too long a narration, if any one were to describe it. However, as prodigiously large and as magnificent as it was, it was finished in fifteen days. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile [or hanging] Paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”

S. R. Driver writes: “Nebuchadnezzar was emphatically a builder; and ‘nearly every cuneiform document now extant dating form his reign treats, not of conquest and warfare, like those of his Assyrian predecessors, but of the building and restoration of the walls, temples, and palaces of his beloved city of Babylon’ (Prince, p.31).”

Here are some extracts from the East India House Inscription [slide]: Nebuchadnezzar writes of his palace in Babylon:

‘That house, for admiration I made it, for the beholding of the hosts of men I filled it with magnificence. Awe-inspiring glory, and dread of the splendour of my sovereignty, encompass it round about; the evil, unrighteous man cometh not within it. I kept far from the wall of Babylon the hostile approach of the foe; the city of Babylon I made strong as the wooded hills’ (ix. 29-44).’ [Driver, xxiv – xxvi]

He records his prayer to Marduk, offered at the dedication of a temple:

‘I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the exalted prince, the favourite of the god Marduk, the beloved of the god Nabu, the arbiter, the possessor of wisdom, who reverences their lordship, the untiring governor who is constantly anxious for the maintenance of the shrines of Babylonia and Borsippa, the wise, the pious, the son of Nabopolasser, king of Babylon’,’To Marduk, my lord I make supplication; Oh eternal prince, lord of all being, guide in a straight path the king whom thou lovest and whose name thou hast proclaimed as was pleasing to thee. I am the prince, the favourite, the creature of thy hand. Thou hast created me and entrusted me with dominion over all people. According to thy favour lord, which thou dost bestow on all people, cause me to love thy exalted lordship. Create in my heart, the worship of your divinity, and grant whatever is pleasing to thee because thou hast my life’, ‘By thy command, merciful Marduk, may the temple I have built endure for all time and may I be satisfied with its splendour; in its midst may I attain old age, may I be sated with offspring; therein may I receive the heavy tribute of all mankind; from the horizon of heaven to the zenith, may I have no enemies; may my descendents live therein forever and rule over the people’.

This is just some of what history and archaeology tell us about the pride of king Nebuchadnezzar. In this prayer, he gives his god Marduk credit for his authority rather than God Most High. He believes that the gods exist to make him great.

Ungratefulness Leads to Bestiality (Rom.1)

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man… 28 And since [he] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave [him] up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Ungratefulness leads to a debased mind, to bestiality.

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

Nebuchadnezzar became a graphic picture of the decline of humanity from dignity as the image bearer of God, meant to reflect God’s glory and to point to him, to the insanity of seeking that glory for oneself. He became a fool, his foolish heart was darkened; God gave him up to a debased mind.

Hope for the Worst of Sinners

But even for Nebuchadnezzar, the epitome of arrogance and pride, there was hope. There is hope in the promise of God. Until. ‘Until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God set a time limit for his humiliation. God was in control, and God was bringing about his purposes. God was extending grace to Nebuchadnezzar. Repentance is a gift, and Nebuchadnezzar would not repent until God humbled him. God was giving him the gift of repentance.

Reasonable Worship

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, 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?” 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.

My reason returned to me. His first sane act was to bless, praise and honor the most High. Worship is what we were made for, and it is reasonable that we give worship to whom alone worship is due. It is unreasonable to refuse to worship God; it is insane to think we are worthy of worship.

Nebuchadnezzar learned some things about God. God is the Most High, worthy of praise and honor; he is eternal, and he is the sovereign king.

Nebuchadnezzar learned something about himself. ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.’ He learned his own insignificance. He thought he was somebody. He learned he was nothing, so that he could enjoy relationship with the one who is everything.

He learned that God is free and God is sovereign. God does whatever he wants, in heaven and on earth. He gets to do whatever he wants because he is God and everything he wants is right and good. He is unstoppable; ‘none can stay his hand’. He is always able to accomplish his will. No one can thwart his purposes.

And no one can question his character; as if he did something wrong, because all he does is right. Nebuchadnezzar was humiliated, and he came out of the experience recognizing the righteousness, the rightness of all that God did to him. He did whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was right and good, because he is God.

Nebuchadnezzar finally understood his purpose. He was made to worship. He was meant to live for the glory of another. He was a builder, and he was meant to build, but not for his own glory, but for the glory of God. As Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Nebuchadnezzar finally learned his purpose, what he was meant for. Remember, this is a letter that Nebuchadnezzar wrote ‘to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth’ showing ‘the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me;’ telling the world the story of his humiliation and exaltation.

He closes his letter this way:

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

***

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

September 28, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Was Daniel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Work Ethic

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

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

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

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

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

Nebuchadnezzar’s Raging Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submission to Sovereign Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

But If Not

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

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

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

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

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

The author of Hebrews celebrates the faith of those:

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

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

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

Paul said:

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

Daniel 3:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves

07/18_Daniel 03:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210718_dan03_1-12.mp3

Daniel 2 showed us the bankruptcy of human wisdom and even the dark arts. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon, and they were powerless to unravel the king’s mystery. They are more inclined to tell him what is expedient, to use flattery, to preserve their positions, than to tell him the truth.

Now we see in chapter 3 the bankruptcy of human government. Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold. God has given him authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all’ (2:38). The head of gold gathers all those he has set up to rule under him; “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces”; this list becomes comical in its sheer length and its repetition. These are representatives from all “peoples, nations, and languages” and they all buckle under the great pressure and threat of consequences; they all compromise to preserve their own skin. They act out of jealousy and self-interest; not the good of the people they are responsible to serve. They all, including Nebuchadnezzar, allow pride and preservation of position to eclipse simply doing what is right.

The Image of Gold; Opposition to God’s Revelation

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 2, God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the future of Gentile dominion, and what would happen after these things with ‘a great image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, frightening’ (2:31). After the head of gold would come three other empires represented by metals of descending value but increasing strength, followed by a divided kingdom. A divine stone would impact and obliterate all human kingdoms, crushing them to powder that the wind blew away, and God will establish his kingdom that will have no end.

In response to this, maybe even in proud opposition to this vision from God, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a massive image 9 feet wide and 90 feet tall that is gold from head to foot. He is saying as it were, my kingdom will last forever. My dominion will not decline or be given to another. My kingdom will never be crushed, never fall. He calls for allegiance to this statue as a symbolic act to unify his empire and rally all his people around an experience of worship.

Daniel had acknowledged God as the one who ‘removes kings and sets up kings’ (2:21), and he made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that ‘the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory’ into his hand (2:37). Here Nebuchadnezzar is saying that he is the one who sets up gods for his people to worship, and that he can give life or take life away from those who refuse to bow.

The Plain in Shinar; Place of Opposition to God

The location of this statue is telling. It is on the plain, in the province of Babylon. In chapter 1, the author calls Babylon ‘the land of Shinar’ (1:2). This links all the way back to Genesis 11.

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

We were created in the image of the invisible God, to enjoy relationship with him and bring glory to his name. Instead we desire to make a name for ourselves, to get glory for ourselves, to establish a monument and create a legacy that will last forever.

On the plain in the land of Shinar, the people united in rebellion against God and his glory, God and his word. God had commanded man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen.1:26-28). Instead they came together so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the whole earth as God intended.

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The tower of Babel was intended to bring together all mankind united in rebellion against God. In that unity, nothing they proposed to do would be impossible for them, but it would not be for the glory of God and the good of others; they do it all to get glory for themselves, to make a name for themselves in opposition to God and his word.

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the same geographic location had the same purpose. In fact, he intended to reverse the confusion of Babel by bringing back together ‘people, nations and languages’ that the Lord had dispersed, to unite them all in worship before his image of gold.

Inclusive Worship of the Image

Daniel 3:2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Note what Nebuchadnezzar is not asking. He is not demanding that all peoples, nations and languages renounce their own gods and exclusively worship his. But he is requiring that they acknowledge his god alongside theirs. In chapter 2, he was willing to acknowledge Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of kings without renouncing his own gods. He is requiring the same of all his subjects. It is fine if you worship your own gods, as long as you will also acknowledge mine. Nebuchadnezzar commands under penalty of death that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship the golden image that he has set up.

The Manipulative Power of Music

Notice what he utilizes to initiate the worship of this image? ‘When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music.’ Some have commented that this bizarre combination of instruments would produce a cacophony of sound, but I don’t think so. Nebuchadnezzar understood the emotive and persuasive power of music skillfully played to manipulate a response from an audience. The image he had made was visually awe inspiring and impressive, and the strategically diverse ensemble was meant to elicit an emotional response from the people. The combination of sight and sound, of threat and hope, of uniting with such an unbelievably great and diverse crowd around something great would be almost irresistible.

And it worked!

Daniel 3:7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

We need to be careful with this. Music is a gift of God. Music is powerful. But music skillfully played at just the right time and in just the right way can manipulate the emotions of people. It persuaded a multitude from diverse backgrounds to fall down and worship an image. Music combined with fog machines and colored lights can create an atmosphere of sight and sound that is powerful and persuasive, and draw people in, whether they believe in Jesus or not.

Paul said, not in the context of music, but in the context of human oratory and eloquence that could please the ear in a similar way;

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

I think it is right and biblical to use instruments in worship of God (Ps.150:3-6). Even loud music and clashing cymbals can be appropriate in worship to God. But we need to be careful that we are not coming to be entertained, to be moved, to be awed by the band and the special effects. We must be careful that we are not using music and visual stimulation to manipulate an emotional response. We ought to be singing because God has genuinely changed our hearts, and we ought to be standing and singing in awe of him, who he is, and his grace, what he has done.

Music is powerful, and it can be used to move ‘all the peoples, nations, and languages’ to fall down and worship ‘the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ All but three young men that is.

Jealousy of Position

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

At the end of chapter 2 we saw that because Daniel upstaged all the ‘wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers’ of Babylon, he was appointed ‘ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (2:48-49).

Now the hearts of the Chaldeans are exposed. They ‘maliciously accused the Jews’. They were full of resentment and jealousy toward these foreigners who had been appointed to positions of authority over them. They were watching, looking for opportunity to accuse the Jews. They were even bold enough to be critical of the king’s decisions; ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon…’

If we look ahead to chapter 6, where Daniel is thrown to the lions, we are told that the jealous leaders conspired to arrange circumstances to entrap Daniel and have him removed. Although we are not told, we could imagine that a similar thing could have happened here; the king’s counselors inflating his ego, encouraging the king to make the image and to institute the death penalty for conscientious objectors, knowing that the Jews were expressly forbidden to bow to any image.

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,…

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew God’s commands. They feared God more even than the threats of the king.

Deuteronomy 6:13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Made to Worship

Although we were made to worship, made to supremely enjoy the one true God, our hearts are sinfully inclined to worship lesser things. We tend to suppress the truth. We exchange the glory of the immortal and invisible God for images resembling visible mortal man. We fail to honor him as God or give him thanks.

Like the Chaldeans, we value our own position, our own promotion, our own exaltation more than God. And we are willing to push others down if that will give us opportunity to advance. We want to be in places of power, we want to be honored. Like the people on the plain of Shinar, we want to make a name for ourselves.

But at the cross, the power of sin was broken. We can be free from our selfish desires. We are set free to look up, not to aspire but to adore. When we see God for who he is, we are set free from the pursuit of self-promotion, from seeking the approval of others. We can be free to forget ourselves and humbly worship the only one who is worthy. We were made to worship, and we find our greatest fulfillment when we pursue the glory of God in all we do.

***

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

July 23, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:46-49; The Marks of True Conversion

07/11_Daniel 02:46-49; The Marks of True Conversion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210711_dan02_46-49.mp3

Daniel 2 shows the bankruptcy of the wise men of Babylon. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans and demanded they not only give him the interpretation to his dream, but also tell him the dream that he dreamed. They responded…

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

But when the executioner came to inform Daniel of his impending doom, Daniel approached the king requesting time to seek an interpretation, and he called on his three friends “to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (2:18).

God answered their prayers and revealed the mystery to Daniel, who responded with worship, a song of praise to the God who “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (2:21). So Daniel was brought before the king.

Daniel 2:26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel was careful to deflect attention from himself to God. The king asked ‘are you able?’ and Daniel responded ‘no, nobody can; there is nothing in me, but there is a God in heaven.’ He stood in humility before the king and gave all glory to God.

He told the king that God had made known to the king what will be in the latter days. Starting with king Nebuchadnezzar, there would be four kingdoms of Gentile dominion, kingdoms descending in value, but increasing in strength, but the final form of the final kingdom would be a divided kingdom, a marriage of the strength of iron with the fragility of potter’s clay. And a stone of supernatural origin would impact the kingdoms of this world and obliterate them so no trace is left.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

Nebuchadnezzar was thinking of what would be after this, how long his kingdom would last, what would come next, and God gave him a comprehensive vision extending to the end of all human kingdoms and the establishment of the messianic kingdom that will endure forever.

Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years, and after he died, the Babylonian empire declined, changing hands through assassinations, only lasting another 23 years, when it fell to the Medo-Persians. The Medo-Persian empire fell to the Greeks in 331 BC, and the Greeks were conquered by the Romans in 146 BC.

It almost seems that Nebuchadnezzar stopped listening after Daniel said ‘you are the head of gold’. ‘Oh yes I am! The head, the top, the pinnacle, the greatest of all. Gold, most precious, most valuable, most glorious. I’m really pretty great, aren’t I? Wait, is Daniel still talking? Blah blah blah…’

Today we are going to look at king Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the obviously supernatural revelation of his dream and the interpretation, both given to Daniel and his three friends who prayed.

Response; Worship?

Daniel 2:46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.

This is immediately troubling. We could think of Peter at the Gentile Cornelius’ house,

Acts 10:25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

Or we could think of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14, when the people of Lystra thought they were Zeus and Hermes and tried to make sacrifices to them,

Acts 14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

We are quick to ask the question ‘why did Daniel not object to these acts of worship by Nebuchadnezzar?’

But we are not told how Daniel responded. The silence of the narrative could be interpreted to mean that Daniel did not raise any objection, or it could be that Daniel did object, but this was left out because it didn’t contribute to the main point of the narrative. If Daniel did not object, it could have been because he understood that what Nebuchadnezzar was doing was intended to honor the God that Daniel represented. What is already abundantly clear from the passage is that Daniel was humble and eager to deflect any glory from himself to God.

Acknowledging God

And if we read on, we see that Nebuchadnezzar is acknowledging Daniel’s God, not worshiping Daniel.

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Through the buildup of the utter failure of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon; through their declaration that ‘There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand’ and that ‘no one can show it to the king except the gods’; through Daniel’s own admission that ‘No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked’, Nebuchadnezzar becomes aware that ‘there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.’ And the head of gold falls prostrate, on his face before the kingdom crushing stone.

Your God is God of gods

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s God. He has witnessed the evidence, the failure of his own gods, and the faithfulness of Daniel’s God. He acknowledges ‘Truly your God is God of gods.’ My gods Bel, Nebo, Aku have failed to do anything. Daniel, your God is supreme over my gods. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t yet own Daniel’s God as his own God, but he has been confronted with the evidence, and is forced to bow his knees to a God who is supreme over any other god that he has known.

This is an important step. To realize that there is a God in heaven, a God above and outside of the gods that he had known, that he was brought up to honor. To acknowledge that there is a difference, a distinction. Daniel’s God is not merely the same god under a different name. No, Daniel’s God is above and superior to and sovereign over the gods of Babylon. Daniel’s God is powerful.

We said earlier that this exile, this captivity was no accident, no tragedy out of the control of the all sovereign God. Daniel and his three friends were sent by God on mission to the nations, to infiltrate the highest offices of the most powerful nation, to be a blessing, to seek the good of the nations, to point them to the one true God. And here we see this happening. The head of gold on his face before the Rock of Ages!

Lord of Kings

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s God as God of gods, and also as Lord of kings. Back in verse 37-38, Daniel addressed the king as:

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Assyria, Egypt, Israel. The kings of other kingdoms had become subject to him. He exercised authority as king over the kings of other nations. But Daniel plainly confronted him with the fact that this was a given authority. God had entrusted this authority to him. And here the king of kings bows to the Lord of kings. Even the highest of human authorities, even the king of kings is subject to the Lord of kings. There is a God in heaven who is sovereign over all who hold any authority on this earth. And the kings of the nations would do well to bow to the Lord of kings.

Revealer of Mysteries

Daniel’s God is sovereign over every other so-called god, he is Master over every other position of authority, and he is a revealer of secrets.

This is what got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. God gave supernatural evidence of his reality. God revealed a secret that no man could know, that not even the false gods could see into and reveal to their followers. Supernatural evidence of God’s reality got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention, and he responded in a dramatic display of worship, falling on his face, offering incense, and as we see in the next verses, giving financially, promoting Daniel and his friends to positions of high honor.

Marks of True Conversion?

But here’s the question; is this true conversion? Is worship of the one true God evidence of genuine conversion? Is acknowledging the fact that God is sovereign over other gods and over every authority the mark of a transformed heart? Is giving generously and honoring believers evidence of true faith? Is responding to supernatural signs in outwardly dramatic ways a sure sign of a believing heart?

I would argue no. In the next chapter, Nebuchadnezzar erects an image and demands that all his officials of every nationality fall down and worship this image. No true believer in the one true God would demand worship of any image. We know that chapter 3 follows chapter 2 chronologically, not only by its placement in the book, but by the fact that in chapter 3, the king had previously appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ‘over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (3:12; cf 2:49).

We must exercise caution in drawing conclusions about someone’s heart. Just because we see someone listen to the word of God, confess belief in the existence of God, perceive the supernatural presence of God, sing praises, even raise hands in worship to the one true God and give generously to God, we must not jump to the conclusion that they have become genuine followers of God. Many people go to church, sing songs of worship, experience genuine emotions of awe and worship, and are unconverted. Many people are impressed by God’s works, by the miraculous and the supernatural, and respond in some way with an expression of worship, but it falls short of true conversion.

Nebuchadnezzar responded in some of these ways, but his heart wasn’t changed. In a rage he throws genuine believers into a furnace of fire because they refused to bow down to his image or serve his gods. He may have bowed his knees to the one true God in response to supernatural evidence, but he had not yet turned away from serving his own gods. He was willing to add another Deity to his pantheon of gods, but he was not yet willing to repent, to turn from his gods, to renounce them as false and turn exclusively to the one true God.

He was willing to be inclusive, to include and even participate in worship of the God of Daniel, he even acknowledged that this God was superior to his gods, but he did not turn from his gods to serve the true God alone. He was willing to embrace everything without discrimination, and that is not a good thing.

Exclusivity of Jesus

Jesus made exclusive claims. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn.14:6).

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is not one piece to the puzzle, making a necessary contribution to our salvation but requiring other pieces, other contributions; he is all-sufficient. Jesus is not one path among many that lead to God; he grants exclusive access to those who turn from all other hopes and trust him alone.

Repent and Believe

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

To repent is to turn, to have a change of mind; to turn from what you were trusting in, whether it be other gods or your own good works, righteous deeds; filthy rags. Let go of every other hope, turn and cling alone to Christ.

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

Repent. Turn from what you had trusted in. Recognize by your wandering heart you have sinned against God and need to be forgiven. Jesus suffered and died to pay your price. Will you turn to him?

Paul taught:

Acts 17:29 …we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Do you want to be truly changed, truly converted? Acknowledge you are a rebel against a good God, that your good deeds are an offense to him; that there is nothing, nothing you can do, nothing outside of Jesus that can change you. Turn to him, cry out to him for mercy, ask him to give you a new heart.

***

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

July 17, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Remember Me

08/30 Remember Me (Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200830_remember.mp3

Last time we talked about worship, the importance of who we worship and how we worship. We are to worship the one true God who reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because God is spirit, Jesus says, we are to worship in spirit and truth. We must be born again of the Spirit of God, empowered by his Spirit, and we must worship in line with the revealed truth of God’s word. We are to ascribe worth to God who alone is worthy of our attention, our affection, our devotion. We are to declare him worthy not only with our words and in our songs, but also with our actions and lives, with our time and attention. We looked at Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. Jesus said this is the good portion, the one thing that is necessary (Lk.10:38-42). There is no substitute for time spent at the feet of the Master. The disciples were shaped above all by this; ‘that they had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Is it evident that you sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching? Do you give him your undivided attention? Are you known by the fact that you have spent time with Jesus?

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, what it looks like to obey everything he commanded us. We must sit at his feet and listen, and we must fall on our face before him and worship.

One of the most significant things, one of the most important things Jesus commanded happened over his final meal with his disciples before he went to the cross.

Luke 22:13 …they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Two Ordinances

Jesus commanded his followers “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is one of only two ordinances that the protestant church recognizes; baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An ordinance is a prescribed practice, something we do, something that Christ commanded, the apostles perpetuated, and the early church practiced. Baptism is a one-time event, where a new follower of Jesus publicly proclaims his allegiance to Jesus, and it pictures the new birth. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread is our subject today.

Passover

Notice in our text that this was a Passover meal. It was the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus told his disciples to “Go and prepare the Passover for us.” Jesus said “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover come from the Exodus. To understand what Jesus is commanding, we need to understand some of the background of what Passover is.

God chose Abraham and promised to bless his family and through them to bless the nations. Abraham, had Isaac, who had Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, whose 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. God had sent him ahead to preserve life. The family moved to Egypt to find provision during the famine, and 400 years later, the children of Israel were enduring bitter slavery and cried out to God for deliverance. He heard their cries for rescue and remembered his promises to Abraham and raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt.

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

To Pharaoh God said:

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (cf. Rom.9:17)

The final plague that forced the release of Israel from Egypt was the death of the firstborn son in every household. But God gave them the provision that a lamb could be sacrificed and the blood applied to the door so that “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex.12:13).

God said:

Exodus 12:14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

The Israelites were to remember forever how God delivered them from Egypt. They were to observe the Passover as a perpetual reminder of what great things the Lord did for them.

It’s All About Me

Jesus and his disciples were remembering God’s deliverance of his people from bondage, and how he made provision for his people to be spared from his judgment through sacrifice and the blood applied. Jesus takes two of the things at the meal, unleavened bread (leaven is a symbol for sin), and wine (a picture both of the wrath of God and of joy and celebration) and re-directs their focus to himself. This is revolutionary; this is monumental! Jesus, celebrating the historic deliverance of the people of God from Egypt, turns it around and says it is now about me!

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

Jesus turns the historic Passover celebration commemorating the exodus from Egypt and says they are now to remember him, his body broken and his blood that brings about the New Covenant.

His Exodus

Back in Luke 9, when Jesus was transfigured, it says

Luke 9:30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [ἔξοδος], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

They spoke of his ‘departure;’ literally his exodus which he was about to accomplish or fulfill. Jesus is the greater Moses who brings us out of our slavery to sin and into a reconciled relationship with God. Jesus is the greater deliverer who crushes a greater enemy and brings about a greater rescue. Jesus is the greater Passover sacrifice, the spotless Lamb who took our place and died to give us life (1Cor.5:7). Jesus accomplished a greater exodus.

1 Corinthians 11:23 …the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus takes the bread and wine of the Passover meal and re-orients us to remember him, his exodus, his sacrifice, his deliverance. He commands his followers to ‘Do this in remembrance of me… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Breaking Bread Together

When Peter preached at Pentecost,

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. This phrase can simply mean to have a meal together, as breaking bread was a common part of every meal. But this phrase seems to take on a special meaning when it is one of the four things that the church devoted themselves to. Then, in Acts 20, when Paul visited Troas, we are told

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,

The believers were gathering together on Sunday to break bread together and to listen to Paul preach.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Notice this is something we do together. We as one body, the body of Christ together bless the cup and break the bread. It is a participation in the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. This is something the gathered church does.

Discerning the Body

In 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul rehearses Jesus’ command to ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ he is correcting selfish abuses of what he calls Lord’s supper when the church came together to eat the bread and drink the cup. By the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians (around AD 53) not only did the church have an established practice of meeting on the first day of the week (1Cor.16:2) to break bread together, but they had already begun to lose sight of remembering Jesus and they were selfishly abusing this most sacred practice. Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Their selfishness destroys the point of the Lord’s supper. He reminds them of the words of our Lord, that this is to be done as a way to remember Jesus together. This is a way to proclaim the good news of the crucifixion and resurrection. And it anticipates Jesus’ coming again.

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

And it is not to be taken lightly.

1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

This is a gathered church thing, and we are to discern the body, the body of Christ, that we are members of one another, that we are one body. There are to be no divisions among us, because we ‘have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ Jesus ‘himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.’ We have been ‘reconciled …to God in one body through the cross’ (Eph.2:13-16). We are not to despise the church of God and put ourselves above others. We are to discern that because of the cross, we are one body. This is serious thing we do.

1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

When you come together as the body of Christ, recognize the body; be considerate of one another.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Remember. We need to be reminded. Remember Jesus. Remember his body broken, his blood poured out, the once-for-all Lamb who paid our price in full. Remember the exodus he accomplished, how he set you free from bondage to worship the living God. Enjoy the benefits of the new covenant that he purchased with his blood. Recognize that you are now part of a body. You belong. To something bigger than you.

***

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

September 1, 2020 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Worship in Spirit and Truth

08/23 Worship (John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200823_worship.mp3

Wrath Revealed Against Worshipers

Worship is a big deal. It has been said ‘we become like what we worship’. It matters what we worship. God takes worship seriously.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 23 …exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

God’s wrath is revealed against those who worship the wrong thing. Worship is a serious issue.

Our English word ‘worship’ comes from the Old English ‘weorthscipe’ from worth or worthy. In worship we are ascribing value or worth to the person or thing we worship. We acknowledge what is worthy of our devotion, our affection, our attention. And our attention is a precious commodity. We have exactly 1,440 minutes in each day, and if sleeping accounts for 480 of those, and assuming you work or go to school another 480 each weekday, that leaves the other 480 waking minutes for you spend as you choose. And everything in this world is competing for those precious minutes. To what do you give your attention? What do you look at? What do you enjoy? What captivates you? What do you worship?

As followers of Jesus, we want to listen carefully to what he tells us about our worship.

Worship Different From Service

During the temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4,

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Satan is competing for our worship. I will give you everything if you will worship me. It is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your god and him only shall you serve.’ God alone is to be worshiped. The Lord alone is worthy of worship. We must value him above all else, and give him the attention he is due.

Notice that Jesus pairs worship with service. The one you worship, you also serve. You live for the thing you value most. Service is an evidence of what we worship. There is some overlap. But service is not the same as worship. We can keep very busy doing things for God, in service to God, and we think we are worshiping God. But notice what Satan requests of Jesus. He doesn’t ask that he do something in service to him, to prove his devotion to him. He asks him to fall down and worship him. The Greek word for worship [προσκυνέω] means to fall face down in adoration, to lower oneself in humble submission, it pictures a dog licking the hand of its master. Several times in the gospels, this word for worship is translated ‘knelt before him’ or ‘fell down before him’. Worship is direct, in the presence of, on your face before, giving full attention to.

Worship Wars

Jesus met a broken and bitter person at a well. When he asked her for a drink, it opened up a conversation where he offered living water, and where he put his finger on some of the brokenness in her life.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Probably in an effort to deflect the conversation in a less personal direction, she asks about a controversial question, a point of dispute between Jews and Samaritans. Where is the proper place for worship? They are at Jacob’s well, near the place where Abraham made an altar to the Lord (Gen.12:6-7), where Jacob made an altar and worshiped (Gen.33:19-20), where the bones of Joseph were buried, where the people under Joshua made an altar and renewed the covenant with the Lord (Joshua 8, 24). ‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.’ But you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship. Solomon built and dedicated the temple to the Lord in Jerusalem, and God chose to put his name in that place (Deut.12:5, 11; 1Ki.9:3; 2Chr.7:12). But after Solomon, the kingdom was divided, and Israel established other places of worship (1Ki.12). Her question is a question of place. Where is the appropriate place of worship? There is rich history of worship in many places, not only Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is the one place God authorized a temple to be built to his name. What is the right place for worship?

Place To Worship

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Jesus’ answer is startling. No. Not here, and not in Jerusalem. The temple towered over Jerusalem, and when his disciples were admiring the architecture and the magnificent buildings, Jesus said ‘There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mk.13:2). A day is coming that the place of worship will not be here, in Samaria, and it will not be there, in Jerusalem.

Who To Worship

Notice something else. Jesus is not afraid to tell her she’s wrong. The Samaritans were wrong about worship. He doesn’t question that she is worshiping, but who she is worshiping. We are all worshipers. We are made to worship. But it matters who you worship, and the Jews were seeking to honor the one true God in the way that he instructed his people to worship him. You worship what you do not know. Salvation is of the Jews. It will not stay with the Jews, and it will not only be Jews who are saved, but the Savior comes from the Jewish nation. God’s salvation comes through a Jewish Messiah and flows out as living water to all the nations.

Jesus says it is not about place. It is about a person. It is about who you worship.

Spirit and Truth

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus says something very simple but very profound about worship, and about God. God is spirit. His essence is spirit, not physical, not material. God is spirit. In Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple, he said:

1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

“Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jer.23:24). Acts 17 says:

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

God doesn’t have needs. He doesn’t need food, drink, shelter, clothing. He is spirit. He is bigger than place. He cannot be confined, he cannot be contained, he cannot be limited. God is the uncaused cause of all that exists. He alone is the self-existent one.

‘The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’ True worshipers must worship in truth, in line with God’s word, and the time is now here, because as John 1 tells us, the Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:14). True worshipers must worship in spirit, because as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, ‘You must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (Jn.3:5-7). Philippians 3:3 draws a contrast between ‘worship by the Spirit of God’ and putting confidence in the flesh. Those who worship by the Spirit of God ‘glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.’

True worshipers must have both. We can’t choose one or the other. Individuals and churches often pick. We’re all about the Spirit, or we’re all about the truth. We aren’t true worshipers of the true God if we claim to worship in the Spirit, unhitched from Biblical truth. Equally so, we aren’t true worshipers if we claim to worship in truth but are devoid of God’s Spirit. We must be born of the Spirit and we must be bound by God’s word.

The I AM is Here

John 4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

This woman is in over her head. Jesus has told her some revolutionary things. She can’t wrap her head around what he is saying let alone attempt to argue her case with him. She defers to the coming Messiah who will make it all clear.

John 4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

This is one of the I AM statements of Jesus. He claims directly to be the Christ, the coming Messiah. Beyond that, he claims to be the self-existent one himself, the I AM. ‘The hour is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, because I AM.’ The I AM has come, God with us. The Father will receive true Spirit empowered worship as a result of the work of the Son who will give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus the Temple

Back in John 2, Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers and those that sold sheep and oxen and pigeons out of the temple courtyard. When he was challenged by the religious leaders as to where he got his authority to do this, he answered:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Samaritan woman is asking about the right place for worship. Jesus says ‘Something greater than the temple is here’ (Mt.12:6). ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6). My body crucified and risen is the only place to meet with God.

Worship Jesus

When tempted by Satan, Jesus answered “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Mt.4:10). Whenever an angel or a man is offered worship, they urgently decline and demand worship be given to God alone. And yet Jesus receives worship. In Matthew 2, the Magi fall down and worship the child Jesus. In Matthew 8, 9 and 15 those in need come and kneel before Jesus in worship. In Matthew 14, after they saw Jesus walking on the water,

Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In Matthew 28 and Luke 24, the risen Jesus is worshiped by his followers. In John 20:28, Thomas responds “My Lord and my God!” Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus receiving worship.

In John 5, Jesus declares that the Father has given all judgment to the Son,

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus receives the worship due only to God, and he demands that we honor him just as we honor the Father.

In John 17 Jesus prays that as he has glorified the Father here on earth, his Father would now glorify him ‘in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’ (Jn.17:4-5).

In Revelation, around the throne of God in heaven, the living creatures and elders fall down before the Lamb and pour out the prayers of the saints and sing ‘Worthy are you …for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Rev.5:9).

There are people who will come to your door and try to convince you that Jesus is not equal to his Father, and not worthy of your worship. Test what they say against the truth of God’s word.

Sit At Jesus’ Feet

Our worship matters. It matters what we value, what we treasure, what we consider worthy of our affection, our devotion, our attention. It matters what captivates us. The Father, Son and Spirit alone are worthy of our worship.

Are you serving or worshiping? Martha welcomed Jesus into her house, but ‘Martha was distracted with much serving’ (Lk.10:40). Her sister Mary ‘sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching’ (Lk.10:39). When Martha complained,

Luke 10:40 …“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Serving is good and right and necessary. If you’re not serving, you need to be using your gifts through love to serve one another. But if you are so distracted with much serving that you don’t sit at Jesus’ feet, that you don’t just get down on your face in his presence and enjoy him, you are missing the one thing that is necessary.

***

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

August 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

***

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

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Body – Romans 12

01/19 Vision – individuals experiencing the gospel together in community (Romans 12); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200119_church-body.mp3

We’ve been looking at vision, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, and how we can grow more and more into what we were meant to be.

So far, we’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church is Jesus’ church, a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth. If each local church is composed of individual believers, then a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. We’ve seen from Colossians 3 that followers of Jesus live by faith, we are to keep our thoughts fixed on God and his glory, we are to live in love and forgive as we have been forgiven; we are to be those whose lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.

We are going to spend our time today primarily in Romans 12. Our focus will be the church as the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, but we are meant to experience the gospel in community.

Established on a Gospel Foundation

Let’s just dive right in and look together at Romans 12.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,

It is essential to stop right here and pay attention to the ‘therefore’. That’s a connecting word, and it reminds us that we are jumping in at the end of a letter. ‘Therefore’ tells us that everything that is said here in chapter 12 is built on the foundation of what was said in the first 11 chapters. God is righteous. We are all sinners, and being unrighteous, we all deserve the just wrath of a holy God. But that same God of holiness and justice is also a God of compassion and love, and he sent his only Son to be the propitiation, the wrath-absorbing sin-bearing substitute for us. In this way God can uphold his own righteous integrity and fully punish sin, while at the same time declaring guilty sinners righteous, justified, as if they had never sinned, credited with Jesus’ own perfect righteousness.

This gift of God’s own righteousness comes to all who believe, who simply take him at his word, trust him implicitly, cast themselves completely on his mercy, entrust themselves to his care. (Rom.3:23-25

Service is Worship

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our response to God’s astounding mercy ought to be worship. Remember, Christians sing! Singing is one of many forms of worship.

This verse points us to another act of worship. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. A sacrificial animal was an animal that belonged to the worshiper, a flawless animal, a valuable animal, one of his best, and he would give it to God. Ownership was transferred to God. The animal was no longer his own to do with as he willed; it belonged to God. Some sacrifices went entirely up in smoke, as a fragrant aroma pleasing to the Lord. Some sacrifices were eaten, both by the priests and the worshipers, a feast enjoyed in God’s presence. You no longer belong to yourself. You were bought with a price (1Cor.6:19-20; 7:23).

Notice, the ‘you’ is plural; you all. ‘Bodies’ is plural. Each of you individually are to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. In joyful response to God’s stunning mercy and grace, I gladly surrender rights over my body to the Lord. This is worship. And although the ‘you’ is plural and ‘bodies’ is plural, the ‘sacrifice’ is singular and the ‘worship’ is singular. As one body we each offer our bodies as a singular act of worship to the Lord.

Service is worship. What we do with our bodies on Sunday is worship. The teachers who teach our children’s church and serve in the nursery are worshiping. Those who volunteered to come yesterday to clean the church, that was an act of worship. What we do Monday through Saturday is meant to be an act of worship. Going to work and earning an honest living so that you can provide for your needs and the needs of those who depend on you, so that you can give generously to God, that is worship. Raising your children to love and fear and follow Jesus, that is worship. Preparing a meal for your own family, or for someone in need, that is worship. Calling someone or getting together to encourage or to pray or to simply spend time with, that is worship.

Mental Metamorphosis

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Colossians 3 told us to ‘seek the things that are above’ (v.1); to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (v.2). To ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (v.16). We need a complete metamorphosis in our thinking. We need to be entirely renewed in how we evaluate and process and plan. It feels natural to follow the world’s patterns, to define success by the world’s standards, but our aim is no longer to please people. We are to seek to do the will of God, to do what is good in his estimation, to be acceptable to him, to please him in all things. As followers of Jesus we think in new categories, we set our minds on things above.

Humility

Here’s a monumental metamorphosis in our thinking.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

From the playground at recess to the job market, we are taught to make much of ourselves, to inflate our abilities, to show ourselves bigger than we are. We make ourselves out to be larger than life, and then we have trouble sleeping because we are concerned someone might find us out.

But this is deeper. This verse is saying that we are inclined to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We actually believe that we are better than we are. We think that we are OK. We think that we are better than others, that we don’t sin as much as others, that in some way by our own efforts we can please God. We don’t like to think, and it is contrary to how the world teaches us to think, that we are not enough. That we are fundamentally flawed, in desperate need of help, in desperate need of the gospel. I am a sinner, I deserve death, and my only hope is in the rescue that only comes through Jesus. We are to think about ourselves with sober judgment. This requires grace, supernatural grace, God’s grace.

The Body

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

I am not enough. I am part of something bigger than myself. As a follower of Jesus, I am a part of a body of believers. We are inextricably connected to one another in Jesus, and we need each other. Paul uses the human body as an illustration. If you understand anything about how the body works, you know the respiratory system is inextricably linked to the circulatory system. The lungs bring in a fresh supply of oxygen to the blood stream. The heart pumps the oxygenated blood around to the various parts of the body to keep the organs and tissues healthy. By the way, the heart is a muscle that needs oxygen that the lungs supply, and the lungs only work when the chest muscles are supplied with blood from the heart so they can expand to take a breath. They are inextricably interdependent. Neither works without the other.

We tend to downplay our own importance to the body. I’m not really that important. If I don’t show up, nobody will even miss me. Paul wrote earlier to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

Eyes and hands are essential. But feet and ears, well they look kind of funny and often stink. We can probably get by without them. Or can we? I sometimes hear people say ‘Well, I don’t really fit in, I’m different, I don’t feel like I belong.’ It’s precisely because you are different that we need you. No one else does what you do. You bring something unique to the table.

There can also be a frustration on the other side, where a person is gifted and passionate about something, and is frustrated that everyone else doesn’t share that same passion.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

You have probably been wondering why we are sitting in a circle today. That was not my idea; it was suggested to me by one of you as a visual illustration of the body. Jesus is at the center, he is the head. He brings us together. We gather around him. And we are all sinners, hurting, broken, daily in need of the gospel, of God’s amazing grace. Daily we need forgiveness, and we need to forgive one another. There is not those who serve and those who come to be served. There are not some who are essential and some who are expendable. Every body part is unique, perfectly designed for its own distinct role, and no other part can take its place. None of us on our own is enough. We are meant to function together, to complement one another. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

Gifts That Differ

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Every believer in Jesus has experienced God’s grace. We each have been given a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. We have been uniquely equipped to serve others. As an act of worship, we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, to use as he sees fit. We have each been given gifts, and we are to use them through love to serve one another.

Notice all the attitude words? Zeal, cheerfulness, genuine love, abhorring evil, brotherly affection, not slothful but fervent. Our attitudes matter. Grudging half-hearted ‘I guess I’ll do it because no one else will’ service is not pleasing to the Lord. You see, when you discover who God made you to be, there is passion and joy in being who you were created to be and doing what you were designed for. There is satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. And we need each other to help each other discover those unique gifts and passions.

…But Not Yet

I find it interesting where he goes next.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

He talks here about tribulation, difficult circumstances; and about persecution, opposition from people. And I asked, is he switching subjects here, moving from life within the body out to life in the world? As followers of Jesus we expect persecution from the world. He definitely moves out to talk about that in chapter 13. And that is at least included in what he says here. But these instructions come in the context of body life and all mixed in with ‘one another’ language. We find joy now in service, but we rejoice in hope. Hope is something that is anticipated but hasn’t been fully realized yet. There is joy in service in the body now, but it is not yet as it is meant to be. There is also tribulation, and even persecution. We live in a community of redeemed sinners undergoing sanctification. And even redeemed sinners sin against one another. That is why we are commanded to forgive one another. Don’t be surprised by opposition, even when it comes from within the body, even when it comes against you using your God given gifts. Live in harmony with one another. That means you don’t all have to sing the same note, but that you do work together and complement one another. There will be times when well meaning fellow believers will seem to be working against you, criticizing your best efforts, frustrating your gifts. Be patient in tribulation. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Live in harmony with one another. If possible, live peaceably with all.

In chapter 15 he has more to say about body life and bearing with one another in love, and so today we will close with his prayer from 15:5-7.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Lord, make it so, here, in this body, your church, today!

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

January 20, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment