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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Holy Holy Holy God

12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3

What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God’s attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God’s characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say ‘God is love’ or ‘God is grace’, and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says ‘God is love’ (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?

There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

These six-winged seraphs surrounding God’s throne are continually crying out ‘holy, holy, holy’. They are not crying out ‘love, love love’ or ‘gracious, gracious, gracious’. God is not heralded as ‘righteous, righteous, righteous’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘almighty, almighty, almighty’.

John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God’s throne.

Revelation 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say ‘holy, holy holy’! Throughout eternity, the praise of God’s holiness reverberates around his throne.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:

Luke 11:2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…

The first thing we are to pray is that the Father’s name be hallowed, or treated as holy… on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

God’s name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.

God says in Leviticus 22:

Leviticus 22:32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,

And in Ezekiel 39:

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God’s name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.

What does Holy Mean?

God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord’s use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.

I The Lord Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?

What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 ​For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.

Isaiah 6:13 …Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

God’s holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.

We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.

This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.

Delighting in God’s Holiness

I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God’s holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.

Exodus 15:11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David’s song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says

1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

God’s salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

God’s name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.

1 Chronicles 16:35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.

Psalm 29 says:

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96 says:

Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word

God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.

In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.

Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. (cf. Amos 4:2)

God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

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

We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.

Listen to Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …

His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God’s holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.

After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 ​and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!

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

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December 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 11:27-34; Judgment and Discipline

08/17 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 Judgment and Discipline ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140817_1cor11_27-34.mp3

1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

27 Ὥστε ὃς ἂν ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ κυρίου ἀναξίως, ἔνοχος ἔσται τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου. 28 δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν, καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω· 29 ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα. 30 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν ὑμῖν πολλοὶ ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἄρρωστοι καὶ κοιμῶνται ἱκανοί. 31 εἰ δὲ ἑαυτοὺς διεκρίνομεν, οὐκ ἂν ἐκρινόμεθα· 32 κρινόμενοι δὲ ὑπὸ κυρίου παιδευόμεθα, ἵνα μὴ σὺν τῷ κόσμῳ κατακριθῶμεν. 33 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, συνερχόμενοι εἰς τὸ φαγεῖν ἀλλήλους ἐκδέχεσθε. 34 εἴ τις πεινᾷ, ἐν οἴκῳ ἐσθιέτω, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κρίμα συνέρχησθε. Τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ ὡς ἂν ἔλθω διατάξομαι.

1 Corinthians 11 [ESV2011]

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 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. 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 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. 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.

Intro:

Paul is correcting problems in the church in Corinth. The Corinthians were self centered. They thought very highly of themselves. They were proud. One would put himself above another. Each was looking out for his own interests. Their actions and attitudes were out of step with the gospel. Things were so bad in Corinth that Paul tells them ‘when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse’, specifically in relation to their celebration of the Lord’s supper. Christ commanded his followers to remember him with bread and wine. But what the Corinthians were doing, one going hungry, another getting drunk, divisions, factions, despising the church of God and humiliating those who have nothing was worthy of judgment.

Paul lays out the problem in verses 17-22, he rehearses the history of the institution of the Lord’s supper by Jesus in verses 23-26, and then in verses 27-34 he gives his conclusion and corrective action for fixing the problem.

Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for others. The Corinthians took what they wanted and neglected the needy among them.

Jesus humbled himself, surrendering his rights so that we could live. The Corinthians wanted recognition and honor, and they got it by humiliating others.

Jesus poured out his own blood as a new covenant agreement between us and God, securing our transformation by the Spirit. The Corinthians acted as if they were unchanged and failed to evidence the fruit of the Spirit.

Jesus loved the church and died to make her his own. The Corinthians despised and divided the church, even in the act of gathering together for worship.

Jesus is coming back for his church. That is intended to be a joyful celebration. The Corinthians instead are making it an occasion for judgment.

Communion is to be a proclamation of our Lord’s death. Our attitude, how we treat one another, is to preach the good news to those around us. We are to display the cross in our lifestyle, in everything, and especially in our celebration of communion.

Judgment

Paul warns then, that eating the bread or drinking the cup of the Lord unworthily brings guilt concerning the body and blood of the Lord. This passage is riddled with judgment language. Verse 28 encourages self-examination, then in verses 29-34 there are 7 occurrences of the word ‘judge’ or related words.

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning [judging] the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 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 [judged] 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.

This is meant to sober us. The Lord is coming. Jesus said in John 5 that the Father…

John 5:27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Peter tells his readers:

1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

In 2 Thessalonians we get a glimpse of Jesus that we may not often think of:

2 Thessalonians 1:7 … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

This is serious. Jesus will inflict the fiery vengeance of eternal punishment on those who do not obey his gospel.

Is this meant to scare us? Yes. Yes it is. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is passage is a warning to us so that we will examine ourselves and avoid judgment.

Unworthy

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.

I do not want to be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. I do not want to incur judgment by despising the church of God. What does it mean to eat or drink in an unworthy manner? Aren’t we all unworthy? Romans tells us in absolute terms:

Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

…20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

…23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We are all condemned under sin. Not one of us is worthy. Jesus tells us:

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

and

Mark 10:18 …No one is good except God alone.

James tells us:

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

‘Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.’ Any sin is a sin against the one who gave the law. Just one sin makes me a transgressor of the law. So who is worthy? No one. No not one.

But this verse does not tell us that we must be worthy. We are not worthy and we cannot become worthy. This word is an adverb, not an adjective. An adjective modifies a noun, which would mean that the ‘whoever’ who eats and drinks would need to be worthy. But this is an adverb, which modifies the verbs in the sentence; eat and drink. It is translated ‘to eat or drink unworthily, or in an unworthy manner’. To be unworthy and to partake unworthily are very different things. Can we who are unworthy, partake of the Lord’s supper worthily?

That is the goal of Paul’s admonition. He wants us, sinners saved by grace, to examine ourselves and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup of the Lord in a worthy manner. So what does this mean? First, to participate worthily necessitates that I acknowledge my own unworthiness. To eat broken bread that symbolizes the Lord’s body given to me and to drink the cup which reminds me of his blood shed for me, all the while denying that I have done anything worthy of death is a gross contradiction. The whole reason Jesus came to die was me. My sins nailed him to the cross. To deny my own helplessness and desperate need for a Savior while receiving the symbols of his sacrificial death would be to eat and drink in a most unworthy manner.

Remember the story of the prodigal son? The son came to his senses and recognized his own unworthiness.

Luke 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

It was this son, who acknowledged his sin and his own unworthiness that the father ran with compassion and embraced and welcomed home. It was the older son who remained outside and refused to come in, who said:

Luke 15:29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, …

Examine Yourself

Paul’s command is to examine ourselves. Come to your senses. Realize that you are only ever a sinner saved by the riches of God’s grace. Recognize that you are not being treated as you deserve. Acknowledge that it is the extravagant love of the Father who sent his only Son to be the sin bearing substitute for my sins that we celebrate. We are unworthy recipients of the lavish generosity of a merciful God. Examine yourself, see yourself as you really are, a rebel convicted of treason, sentenced to death, but extended pardon and adopted as a son of the very King against whom you revolted. ‘Examine yourself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.’ Do not examine yourself, conclude you are unworthy and decline. Examine yourself, agree with him that you are unworthy, and gladly receive his unmerited offer of grace!

Discerning the Body

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.

Here is more clarification on what it means to eat or drink in an unworthy manner. To partake unworthily is to eat or drink without discerning the body. The form of the word ‘judge’ here translated ‘discerning’ has a prefix that means to separate or make a distinction, to differentiate, to evaluate discerningly. Paul used this word back in chapter 4 this way:

1 Corinthians 4:6…that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Who judges between one and another? None of you have a right to be puffed up, to consider yourself better than anyone else. Everything you have is a gift. You might be rich, you might be poor, but whatever you have is a gift from our good God. If your sins are forgiven, that is not something to boast about as if you are better than someone else; you have received unearned grace from our generous God. But in this verse what we are to differentiate or evaluate discerningly is ‘the body’ The body, in the immediate context is the body of Christ which is given for us. That body is absolutely unique. God the Son took human flesh so that he could stand in our place as the perfect substitute. He who knew no sin became sin for us (2Cor.5:21). As we come to Jesus and trust in him, believe on him, we become one body, as Paul said back in chapter 10:

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.

When we participate in the body of Christ through faith, we together become his body, the church. In the next chapter, he will go on to deal more with the unity of the body:

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

…25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

The Corinthians were dividing between rich and poor, those of status and those with none, those who were powerful and educated and those at the bottom of the social ladder. But the real division is between Jesus and us. He is Lord, we all are his servants. He is guiltless and we all are guilty. We owed an infinite debt, and he paid our debt in full. To fail to discern the body in this sense is to eat and drink judgment on ourselves. We miss the whole point of why Jesus came and what he accomplished, the very thing we are to be remembering as we celebrate the Lord’s supper.

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 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.

Discipline

This is a serious issue. There were tangible consequences in the church in Corinth. Many were weak and sick, and some even died. This was serious, and Jesus intended to get their attention. If we judge or evaluate ourselves discerningly, we would not be judged by the Lord. When we are judged by the Lord, it is not final condemnation. We are being trained as his children. Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

The purpose of this parental training is to prevent our final condemnation. “we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” this form of ‘judge’ has a prefix that means to judge against or to sentence, to condemn.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The prospect of sickness, weakness, even death because of our sin may seem scary, (and the bible is clear that not all sickness, weakness or death is a result of sin; see the book of Job), but if it is because of our sin, we can thank God for loving us enough to not leave us in our sin and ultimately condemn us. If we are truly his children, if we are in Christ, adopted into his family, he will be faithful to discipline and train us in the way that we should go.

In John 5, where Jesus talks about the Father giving him the authority to judge, he says:

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. …24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

‘Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death into life.’ There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Son gives life. Those who hear and believe have eternal life. They have passed from death to life. They will never come into judgment. It is after this that he says:

John 5:28 …an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

So those who have done good are those who have believed, because they have already been given life. They have done good in response to the transformation of the Holy Spirit. That is what the New Covenant in his blood is all about. Those who have done evil are those who have not believed in Jesus.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

They are condemned because they have not believed. Their works are evil because, no matter how good they seem, they do not honor God, they do not receive his gift or give him thanks.

Final Instructions

Paul gives his final instructions on this issue.

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. This is Paul’s corrective for his opening statement:

1 Corinthians 11:17 …when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…

Now he says when you come together as a church, in your regular celebration of the Lord’s supper, wait for one another. Wait for one another in the sense of receiving one another, welcoming one another, eliminating the divisions where one feels he is better than another, where one goes hungry and another gets drunk. Receive one another as God in Christ has received you. The gathering of the believers is to celebrate the cross in word and in deed. We must sacrifice our own rights, our own desires, for the good of the other, just as Christ laid down his rights and died for sinners to make us his. If you are hungry, if you are showing up simply to satiate your appetite with a complete disregard for Christ and for those for whom he died, then stay home. Eat at home. Be a glutton at home. But don’t despise the church of God and eat and drink judgment on yourself.

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

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

August 17, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Deity

12/08/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Deity;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131208_incarnation-deity.mp3

I’d like to take this time of year as an excuse to do something a little different than we usually do. I’d like to look at some theology with you. We normally work our way through books of the Bible, take it as it comes, and listen to what God has to say to us through the pages of his word. But for the next few weeks I’d like to do some theology with you. I want to look at the theology of the incarnation.

Theology

The mention of doing theology might scare you in one of three different directions.

Some might be scared that theology means that we are going to dictate that you believe certain stuff because somebody important with a lot of authority said we should. Although we can learn a lot from history, that is not what we intend to do. Good theology is taking all that the bible says relating to a specific issue and attempting to fit it together and make sense of it. We will look at some history along the way, because we can learn a lot from other people, and awareness of history often helps us to avoid making the same mistakes that others have already made. What we are aiming for is a biblically based historically informed theology.

Some might be inclined to say ‘theology is just not my cup of tea’. I’m not into all that. The problem with this is that everyone does theology. You believe things about God based on what you have seen or heard or felt or read. Everyone does theology. Some do it carefully and well, others do it haphazardly and poorly, but everyone does theology. The question is not whether or not to do theology; the question is whether or not we will get our theology right. Children are some of the best theologians. They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know why. If you spend any time around children, you will have to do theology. It would be in your best interest and theirs to do it well.

Some are turned off by theology because they think that theology is stuffy and boring and irrelevant. Some might say ‘I have a real relationship with Jesus; why do I need theology?’ You need solid theology to make sure your relationship is with the real Jesus. Good theology is not irrelevant; it is the most relevant study addressing the most important issue that any human being ever has to face. The stakes are so high that it warrants serious and careful attention. Theology is not boring because God is not boring. He is the most interesting being that is. He is worthy of all your affection, all your devotion, all your energy. The greatest commandment tells us that we must love God with all of our mind. You will find, rather than being stuffy, studying who God is will irresistibly draw you deeper into worship. As we see what God reveals about himself in the Bible, we will be filled with wonder and amazement which naturally expresses itself in worship.

Outline

Here is where we are going. Lord willing, we will take the next few weeks to examine the theology behind the incarnation. It will be well worth our time and energy to focus our attention on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the God-man. This week we will examine his Divine nature; next week we will look at his humanity, and the following we will look at how these two natures are united in one person forever.

Trinity

In order to understand more clearly what happened at the incarnation, when God became man, we need to understand a bit about the nature of God. All Christians believe there is only one true God. Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, is strictly monotheistic. There can only be one supreme being. The Biblical narrative starts with ‘In the beginning God…’ (Gen.1:1). God commands his people ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex.20:3).

Psalm 96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

God gives evidence that ‘the LORD is God; there is no other besides him’ (Deut.4:35). Jesus said ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve (Mt.4:10). This is interesting, because as we will see, Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, and received worship as God, but he also addressed his Father as God. This has led Christians to understand that the one God has eternally existed in three distinct persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three personalities or centers of consciousness all share the divine nature or essence, they each are characterized by all of the divine attributes or characteristics. This teaching has come to be known as the doctrine of the Trinity. All Christians from earliest times have held that there is only one God and that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God.

This is relevant to our understanding of the incarnation, because when we say that God became man, we do not mean that the Father or the Spirit became man, but only the Son. The personality of the Son is not to be confused with the Father or the Spirit. Jesus, during his time on the earth, continued in his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit through prayer and dependence.

John 1

Let’s start by looking at John’s gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John brings us all the way back to the beginning, using words that remind us of the opening words of Genesis. In the beginning – in the darkness before the universe or even matter existed, the Word already was. This is the Divine word who spoke matter and light and life into existence. John takes us back to creation and says that the Word was already there. The Word was eternal. Then it says something interesting about the Word. It tells us that this Word was with God; distinct from God, a separate personality, a unique center of consciousness who could be said to be with God. And the text also affirms that the Word was God. The Word shared the essence of God, the divine nature. Psalm 33:6 tells us:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

John tells us that everything that has ever come into being came into existence through the Word.

Verses 2-4 tell us that the Word is personal. The Word is not an it; the Word is a he. Who was this divine personality who was both with God and was himself God? Who is the Word? We find the answer in verse 14.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Word became flesh. The Word was the only Son from the Father, fully sharing his God-ness as a son shares the DNA of his father. John the baptist, who was about 6 months older than his cousin, said “he who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.” Jesus was born later than John, but John says that the Word has always existed before John came into being. In verse 18, he affirms the invisible, immaterial,spiritual nature of God; ‘no one has ever seen God’, and then he goes on to say that the Word is the only one who shares the nature of God, yet is distinct from the Father. The Word, John says, has become human and dwelt among us in order to make the invisible God known.

This is beyond wonderful! To summarize a few of the high points that we learn from John 1: the Word is the eternal Son who became human; Jesus. He has eternally existed in relationship with his Father. He also shares the same divine nature or essence with his Father. He was with God, and he was God.

Jesus is God

Let’s look at some other passages that clearly present Jesus as divine. Paul says in Romans 9:5 speaking of the Israelites:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to Jesus as:

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Peter refers to Jesus almost the same way in 2 Peter 1.

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 45 to Jesus:

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

When he finally saw the risen Christ,

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

LORD

This is interesting because not only does Thomas address Jesus as God, but also as Lord. We might easily miss the significance of this due to our familiarity with the English word. This word ‘κύριος‘, Lord, is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was in use in Jesus’ day to translate the Hebrew name of God, ‘YHWH’, 6814 times. For anyone familiar with the Old Testament to identify Jesus as Lord would be to connect him with YHWH the very name of God. In Luke 1, when Elizabeth sees Mary coming to visit, she exclaims:

Luke 1:43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

In Luke 2, the angel of the Lord declares to the shepherds:

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

When the shepherds made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child, all who heard it wondered (Lk.2:17-18). To say that the child born in Bethlehem is the Christ, the Messiah is amazing enough. But to say that he is YHWH, the Lord staggers the imagination!

In Luke 3, the role of John the Baptist is said to fulfill the words of Isaiah 40

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

This clearly demonstrates that Jesus is identified as YHWH, the Lord of the Old Testament.

The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 102 to the Son of God:

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

Notice, not only does he refer to Jesus as Lord, but he attributes all of creation to Jesus, and asserts that Jesus is unchanging and eternal.

Attributes of Deity

This is another clear evidence in scripture that Jesus is fully divine. Not only is he directly called God and Lord, he has the characteristics or attributes that only God possesses, like eternity and unchangeableness or immutability.

In John 2, Jesus turned 120-180 gallons of water into the finest wine for a wedding celebration.

John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus, the true Master of the feast, put his glory on display.

In Matthew 8, when the disciples are terrified that they will die in the storm,

Matthew 8:25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus demonstrated his omnipotence; his absolute power over all of creation. Later in this chapter, he demonstrates his sovereignty even over the demonic hordes, who must obey his command.

On many occasions we are told that Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men.

John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

In John 16, the disciples said:

John 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

In John 21, when Jesus asks Peter ‘do you love me’, Peter answers:

John 21:17 …and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus is all-knowing; omniscient.

When Nathaniel was introduced to Jesus in John 1, Jesus said to him:

John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus here claims omnipresence; the ability to see what is happening in a different place. In Matthew 18, Jesus looks into the future gatherings of believers and promises:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

In Matthew 28, when Jesus sends his disciples into the nations, he

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For Jesus to accompany all of his scattered disciples as they evangelize the nations would require him to be omnipresent.

When some friends lowered a paralyzed man through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching,

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

In claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be the sovereign holy God against whom all sin is ultimately committed.

Jesus claimed to be the life-giver. He said in John 5:

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

He said in John 10:

John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus claimed to have immortality, the power of an indestructible life (Heb.7:16).

In John 8, Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus does not merely say that he pre-dated Abraham. He claimed to be the self-existent One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex.3:14).

In Revelation 19:10, John is so overcome with awe that he falls down to worship the angel that brought him the message. The angel quickly refused his worship and told him ‘worship God’, for God alone is worthy of worship. But Jesus, on several occasions, received worship and did not refuse it.

Matthew 28:9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

In fact, in Revelation 5, we see Jesus, the Lamb, receiving equal worship with his Father.

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

This is the Jesus we worship, the Word made flesh, the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immortal, self-existent, sovereign Creator of all that is. Jesus lacks no quality that God the Father possesses. He is YHWH God, sharing all the character traits of God with his Father. He was in the beginning with God, and he is God. As God, he is infinitely worthy of our trust, because he is infinitely able to save us. Because of who he is, his sacrifice for us on the cross is of infinite value. 

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

December 8, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:11-16; Ransom Money

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120513_exodus30_11-16.mp3

05/13 Exodus 30:11-16 Ransom Money (38:25-28; Numbers 1)

Today we are in Exodus 30:11-16. This is a curious instruction for a ransom price to be collected whenever God’s people are numbered, placed in the middle of God’s instructions for building his tabernacle. At first glance this seems out of place, inserted here between the altar of incense and the bronze wash basin.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

We see God commanding this census to be taken in Numbers chapter 1; this is what gives the book of Numbers its name.

Numbers 1:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.

Reuben: 46,500

Simeon: 59,300

Gad: 45,650

Judah: 74,600

Issachar: 54,400

Zebulun: 57,400

Ephraim: 40,500

Manasseh: 32,200

Benjamin: 35,400

Dan: 62,700

Asher: 41,500

Naphtali: 53,400

44 These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his fathers’ house. 45 So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel–– 46 all those listed were 603,550.

There were 603,550 men 20 years old and up able to fight in battle. This did not include the men in the tribe of Levi.

47 But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. 48 For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. 50 But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. 51 When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. 52 The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. 53 But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” 54 Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.

How Much Silver?

Scholars believe the half-shekel was a unit of weight that measured about 5.7 grams. If we do the math, 603,550 men giving a half shekel each would equal about 7,584 lbs or over 3 ¾ tons of silver. We find out what this silver was used for in Exodus 38.

Exodus 38:25 The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil; a hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent a base. 28 And of the 1,775 shekels he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their capitals and made fillets for them.

So, this ransom price was used for the foundation of the tabernacle. One hundred blocks of cast silver weighing about 75 pounds each were used as the bases for the frames of the tabernacle. The remaining 11 pounds of silver was made into hooks and overlay for the tops of the pillars.

Why The Census Tax?

This helps us to understand what the silver was used for, where it came from, and how much there was. But what did this offering mean? Why was each man numbered to give a half-shekel each? Look back at the text in Exodus 30.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.

This payment was a ransom for the life of each fighting man given to the LORD to prevent a plague. In verses 15 and 16, we are told that it is

15 …the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 … the atonement money from the people of Israel … that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This half-shekel was ransom money or atonement money. These Hebrew words are related. Atonement is to cover over sins, or to pacify or propitiate. We saw this term when we looked at the atonement cover, or the mercy seat – the lid that covered the violated covenant from God’s sight; the place where blood was applied once a year on the Day of Atonement. A ransom is the price of a life. It is the price paid to cover a person from the consequences of their actions. If someone had acted foolishly and gotten into debt that they could not pay, they would be sold into slavery in order to pay back the debt. If they had a relative that was willing to rescue them, he would pay the ransom price and redeem them from slavery. We were introduced to this concept of redemption in Exodus 13, where God claimed all firstborn as his property, all firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to him, and all firstborn sons had to be bought back or redeemed by paying the ransom price. In the final plague, God killed all the firstborn in Egypt, but in any house that was covered by the blood of the lamb, the firstborn was spared.

This ransom or atonement price is to cover sin so that you will not die, ‘that there be no plague among them when you number them.’ God is saying that he will treat you like he treated the Egyptians, his enemies, if you do not do this. What was the sin, and why did a price have to be paid? We see a graphic illustration of this in 1 Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). King David, in his later years, was incited to number the people of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”

When David was young, he recognized that it is not numbers or weapons that win the battle. He said to the Philistine champion:

1 Samuel 17:45 …“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

Throughout his military career, David had seen the LORD give victory to his people even when they were severely outnumbered and disadvantaged. Now, later in life, David had conquered much land and wanted to know how many troops he had. David’s military commander Joab knew that this was a dangerous move.

1 Chronicles 21:3 But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?”

In spite of Joab’s warning, David persisted. David wanted to know how many men he had. God sent a plague and it cost him 70,000 men.

Sin Against God

Why was this so serious? We are told:

1 Chronicles 21:7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”

First, to number the people without collecting the ransom money was in direct disobedience to God’s instructions recorded in Exodus 30. We sometimes feel that it’s no big deal. We want to know why God said what he said before we are willing to obey. But God is God. He doesn’t have to tell us why. It is ours to obey.

But I think we can see why this was so serious. It was demonstrating distrust in God. Counting men was a way to see how much military might you had. It showed a leaning on human strength rather than on God who himself gives the victory. At root, David’s foolishness and great sin was unbelief.

David’s sin was also a violation of ownership. You only take inventory of your own belongings. I don’t have any right to go into my neighbor’s house and count his belongings without his permission. I have no right to access my neighbor’s bank account and check his balance. David, by counting the people without having them pay the ransom price, was saying ‘these are my men. This is how many I have to work with’. He is not acknowledging God’s ownership of his people. He is counting God’s property as if it were his own.

What Are You Worth?

The ransom price was a way to say that these people are God’s people, and to acknowledge that God is the one who holds their lives in his hand. The atonement money was a covering for sin, owning the fact that we are all sinners before God and deserve to die. The ransom price was the price of your life. What are you worth? A half-shekel was the set price; no more for the rich and no less for the poor. We are all on equal footing before God. What are you worth? A half-shekel was about 5.7 grams of silver. I don’t know how much buying power that had then, but today you can cash in 5.7 grams of silver for about $2 – $5, depending on its purity. That’s humbling. You are kidnapped and held for ransom – for two dollars. That’s humiliating. I like to think I’m more valuable than that. And although I can think of lots of people who are worth more than me, I also think I’m more valuable than a lot of other people I know. God says no. If you are a human, you are of equal value. None more, none less. And think about this for a minute. Where did the Israelites get the silver? They were slaves in Egypt. God said “I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and when you go you shall not go empty …you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Ex.3:21-22; cf.Ex.12:36). So even this half-shekel was given to them by God. Everything they had was a gift. The only proper attitude to have before God is humility. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5). God said to Pharaoh “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (Ex.10:3), and that was also a question of ownership; God said “let my people go that they may serve me.” Pharaoh was proud. God humbled him. God owns us. God is the one who “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

It is right that we humble ourselves before God. It is also right to understand who we are as God’s people. This silver was to be given:

16 … for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This atonement money became the foundation of the tabernacle. This silver was in the presence of God. It was designed to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. In chapter 28, we saw that the high priest would bear the names of Israel on his shoulders on stones of remembrance (v.12). And he would also “bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece …on his heart when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD” (v.29). Now, this silver, constantly in God’s presence, is to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. Do you ever feel forgotten? Do you ever doubt your worth before God? Do you feel valueless?

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

The Ultimate Price

You are called by name, precious, remembered, ransomed. Peter reminds us:

1 Peter 1:18 …that you were ransomed …not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We have been ransomed, not with a half-shekel of silver, but with the precious blood of the Messiah. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf.Mt 20:28)

We get a glimpse of our High Priest in the tabernacle in heaven:

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 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, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

In heaven Jesus is worshiped because he paid the ultimate price for us. The ransom price was infinite, the blood of God the Son. Jesus ransomed us by substituting himself in our place, dying the death we deserved, so that we can be his priests and reign with him. Paul reminds us:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You are not your own. You are owned by God. He paid the ultimate ransom price. You are his. You are his temple. So, live your life to the glory of God. Glorify God in your body.

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

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments