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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 32:15-29; Wages of Sin and the Mercy of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120722_exodus32_15-29.mp3

07/22 Exodus 32:15-29 The Wages of Sin

We pick up the narrative of the covenant treason of God’s people in Exodus 32:15. God had spoken to the people, and they had vowed ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (19:8; 24:3, 7). The leadership of Israel ate a covenant meal in the presence of God, and then Moses was called up to receive God’s instruction.

Exodus 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

Moses has been up on mount Sinai for 40 days, receiving God’s instructions for life in his community, and instructions for building a tent where God would dwell with his people, chapters 25-31 of Exodus.

The Greatest Treasure

Exodus 32:15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

These were two duplicate copies, permanent reminders of the terms of this covenant agreement. When a covenant was made between a conquering king and his subjects, two duplicate copies of the covenant would be made. The king would be given a copy of the agreement, and a copy would be given to his subjects. Because God is going to pitch his tent with his people, both copies would be kept in his tent. These were the most precious artifacts in existence; that the God of the universe would bind himself in covenant agreement with a people, and that he would personally etch the terms of the agreement into stone is an unspeakable treasure. These tablets of stone were the embodiment of the relationship between God and his people. This sets the stage for what is about to happen.

Joshua’s Misunderstanding

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.”

Remember, Joshua had accompanied Moses partway up the mountain after the covenant meal in chapter 24; Joshua was the military commander in the battle with Amalek and his people from chapter 17. Joshua, familiar with battle, hears the sound of war – adrenalin filled shouts of warriors in triumph; horrified screams of women and children; desperate cries of panic and pain; clash of sword and shield. Joshua fears that the Israelites are under attack, and they are, but the enemy is not a physical foe.

Moses had been told by God what is going on in the camp.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

Moses, having been told by God what is happening, responds to Joshua; this is not the joyous singing of victory; nor is it the lamentable singing of defeat, but the sound of singing. This reminds us of the song Moses in chapter 15 after the display of God’s power at the Red Sea. There they sang the triumph of YHWH who had conquered his enemies. There is nothing inherently wrong with singing – it was an expression of worship to God, but now their singing is directed toward the wrong object; a false god, an idol that did not save them. They turned from worshiping God to worshiping the works of their own hands.

His Anger Burned Hot

19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

We are told that ‘Moses’ anger burned hot’. We think of anger as sin, and it often is that. We might read this episode as a temper tantrum where Moses lost control and acted irrationally. But anger is not always sin.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

This verse tells us that it can be right to be angry. But we must be on guard that our anger not lead to sinful attitudes or actions. Jesus was angry. Passionate zeal for the house of the Lord consumed Jesus (Jn.2:14-17) and he drove people out of the temple courts with a whip. That was not a sinful act that Jesus did. This exact phrase ‘anger burned hot’ is found over 50 times in the Old Testament, and in the majority of them, God is the one who is angry. This is not a lost temper but the righteous response to sin. Moses is reflecting God’s own character here. His action was not a spontaneous outburst of misdirected emotion, but a passionate acting out of what had already happened. God had entered into a covenant relationship with his people, given the gift of himself to his people. This – a relationship with the living God – is the greatest treasure a person could possess. This greatest treasure had been trampled and treated as worthless. It had been shattered, and now the formal documentation of the relationship was destroyed as a demonstration that the relationship had been destroyed. We are at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been taken, the groom has turned with the minister to sign the wedding certificate, and behind them they hear the sounds of the bride giving herself to one of the guests. No wonder the minister turns and rips the wedding certificate to shreds.

Now that the covenant document is destroyed, a graphic illustration of what the people have done by their actions, Moses as God’s representative begins to clean up the mess. He deals with the idol, he deals with the leader he left in charge, and he deals with the people who have brought dishonor on God’s reputation.

Desecrating the Idol

What Moses does with their idol is to permanently and completely desecrate it so that it can never again become an object of worship. He is demonstrating in an unforgettable way that this so-called god is no god at all. The people directed their worship toward this image saying ‘these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt’ (32:8). Moses is showing that this so-called god cannot even save itself. He burns it with fire, he pulverizes it to powder, and he scatters it in the water supply of the camp of Israel, so that anything that is left of this false god is ingested, digested and passed out in a pile of excrement. There will be no recovery of this idol. The people had worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and in this way Moses demonstrates just how unworthy this inanimate idol was of their worship.

A Leader Rebuked

Moses now addresses his older brother Aaron. Back in chapter 24, before Moses and Joshua ascended the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, Moses charged the leaders of Israel to wait for his return and he appointed Aaron and Hur to settle any disputes while he was away. Now he is calling Aaron to give an account of himself.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”

The language Moses employs here is strong. The words translated ‘great sin’ can be used to describe the sin of adultery or marital unfaithfulness (Gen.20:9). The people have broken their covenant relationship with God. They have been unfaithful. They have turned from their vows and committed spiritual adultery with an idol. And Moses is holding the leader he left in charge responsible for bringing this great sin upon them.

Excuses

22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The excuses of Aaron remind us of the garden of Eden. This is a great example of how not to confess your sin. Fingers are pointing in every direction. There is no honest taking of responsibility or open confession of wrong done. Aaron first asks Moses not to be angry. Ultimately, he is asking Moses not to be righteous. He is asking that Moses let this sin slide and not be zealous for the reputation of the LORD. This is something a true leader cannot do. Then he shifts blame to the people and appeals to Moses’ prior experience with the people. ‘You know the people, that they are set on evil.’ For a leader to know this should stir him to be all the more vigilant and stand for truth and intercede for them, not cave in and give them what they want and then shift the blame on them. Aaron then repeats to Moses what the people said to him at the beginning of chapter 32, implying that it was Moses’ own fault for not coming back sooner. But his description of how the calf came to be; ‘I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf’ is a less than truthful account of his ‘receiving the gold from their hand, fashioning it with a graving tool, and making a golden calf’ (32:4). Moses doesn’t even honor these excuses with a response.

Consequences of Sin

Moses takes decisive action to put a stop to the situation.

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

This is a grisly, bloody scene. When we read this, we tend to be more shocked at the cure than the disease. If so, we fail to see the seriousness of sin. The people had broken loose. They were out of control. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. God is a God of order and design. This chaos in the camp of God’s people opened them up to the whispers of their enemies. ‘So this is how God’s chosen people act?!’ Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations by pointing them to the truth about God. They were to be an example to everyone of what life lived in relationship with God should look like, and they were to invite others in to that relationship. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was designed to put the glory of God on display for the world to see (14:17-18). Here, they are failing miserably at their calling, and opening God’s name to reproach and dishonor among the nations. They sinned by falling short of giving to God the glory that is his due, and the wages of sin is death.

Evidence of Mercy

This passage, seen in its proper perspective, is a loud testimony to the far reaching mercy of God. Remember, God told Moses to stand aside so that he could wipe out every last one of the Israelites and start fresh with Moses. That would have been righteous. They deserved it. But Moses interceded, and now only 3,000 died. That sounds like a lot, but let’s put it in perspective. In Numbers 1:46 we are told the able bodied males 20 years old and up were numbered at 603,550 men, and that does not include the tribe of Levi. The 3,000 who died was less than half of one percent of the able bodied males from the other 11 tribes; only one out of every 200 men, and they all deserved to die. This is astounding mercy of God. To put this in perspective for us today, in the overall U.S. population, one out of every 2 males risk developing some form of cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 4 males risk dying from cancer. Here in Exodus, one out of 200 die. We are not told how the Levites knew who deserved to die, but in a similar event in Numbers 25, it was those that were blatantly unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry and immorality. They were to show no favoritism, not to brother, son, friend or neighbor. They were to show a passion for the glory of God that ran deeper than the closest human bonds. Jesus requires this kind of allegiance from his followers too. He said

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Jesus demands that our love for him take priority over every other relationship. We must be zealous for the glory of Jesus, not by taking up the sword to kill, but by a willingness to even lay down our own lives for the glory of God.

More Evidence of Mercy

One thing to note that the text does not say; the text does not say that the Levites were more righteous than the rest. It does not say that they had not been involved in the idolatry. We are told that all the people, including the Levites were involved to one degree or another in the sin and were guilty. But there was an opportunity to repent. Moses asked ‘who is on the LORD’s side?’ The Levites turned from their wicked ways and responded to the invitation. And they were blessed by the Lord. This is the good news, that sinners who deserve to die are spared by the mercy of God and invited to turn back to God and actually be used in his service. Aaron himself, who was left in charge, the one whose idea it was to collect earrings and make an idol, the one who actually formed the idol, the one who shifted blame and made excuses, this Aaron, in chapter 39 is clothed in the garments of the high priest, and wears on his head the inscription ‘holy to the LORD’. That is amazing grace and undeserved kindness!

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent – Immanuel

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111218_advent-immanuel.mp3

12/18 Advent – Immanuel – God With Us

Jesus is Immanuel – God With Us

Christmas is one week away! In this advent season, I want us to turn our eyes to Jesus. Today, I want to reflect on one of the names given to Jesus. That name is Immanuel. It comes from Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Matthew quotes this prophecy as being fulfilled in Jesus.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus’ conception was supernatural. Jesus had no human father. Mary was a virgin. “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” And Matthew tells us that the Hebrew name Immanuel means God with us. Jesus is Immanuel; God with us.

The implications of this stagger the imagination! God with us. God the Creator of the universe, born of a virgin. God in human flesh. Luke puts it this way:

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy––the Son of God.

Overshadowed by the power of the Most High – God the Father; and God the Holy Spirit – so that the child to be born will be the Son of God. John puts it this way:

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.

John tells us that ‘the Word’ was in the beginning. ‘The Word’ existed before all creation. ‘The Word was with God’ – distinct from God the Father – a perfect companion of the Father. ‘The Word’ was with God, and ‘The Word’ was God – fully divine, sharing all the attributes and characteristics of God. ‘The Word’ was distinct from the Father, and yet fully divine. John continues by saying that ‘the Word’ became something he was not before.

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.

‘The Word’ became flesh. ‘The Word’ became tissue, bone and blood. He who existed from eternity with God and as God, now took on a human body. God became flesh. God dwelt among us, or literally ‘pitched his tent with us’. Immanuel – God with us. John goes on to say:

No One Has Ever Seen God

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father‘s side, he has made him known.

This is an absolute statement. No one has ever seen God. Period. Paul tells us of the Father:

1 Timothy 6:15 …he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

No one has ever seen or can see God, because he dwells in unapproachable light. No one can see God the Father, because, as Jesus tells us, “God is Spirit” (Jn.4:24; cf. Jn.5:37, 6:46). No one can see the Father because, as Paul tells us in Colossians, God is invisible. But he says of Jesus, God the Son, that:

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus, the only God who is at the Father’s side has made know to us the Father. The word John uses is interesting. Jesus has made known or literally exegeted the Father. We usually use this word exegete in reference to a biblical text. It is a Greek word that means ‘to lead out’. You take a biblical passage and study it carefully so that you can lead out to make known or put on display the truth that is in it. Jesus exegetes the Father. He puts on display what the invisible God is like. The author of Hebrews says that God’s fullest revelation of himself is in his Son, who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb.1:3).

Jesus is God. He is fully God. He was with God and he was God. But Jesus is God with us. He became human so that he could make know to us what God is like. Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God.” He is the shining forth of the excellencies of God. He puts his Father on display. He is the exact imprint of the nature of the Father. Jesus tells us as much in John:

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” …9 …Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father‘?

Jesus puts the Father’s nature on display so precisely that he can say “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” To know Jesus is to know God.

So in the time we have left, let’s turn our eyes to our Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, to get a clearer picture of what God is like. Understand, that studying the gospels and the other New Testament documents to see Jesus, to get to know him, to deepen affection and admiration of him, to enjoy relationship with him, is a lifetime project. We will only be able barely to scratch the surface in a broad overview sort of way.

Triune

As we have seen in the verses we have looked at so far, Jesus reveals to us that God, in his very nature and essence, is triune. Jesus speaks of his Father, and the coming Holy Spirit. God is Father, Son, and Spirit, in eternal relationship and fellowship. Three distinct persons, each fully divine, constitute the one sovereign being we refer to as ‘God’.

Omnipotent

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

One thing we learn about God through Jesus is that he is omnipotent, or all-powerful. He is the one who has absolute control over all things. He is the sovereign supreme ruler. All created things must obey him.

Omnipresent

John 1:48 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!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

Another thing Jesus teaches us about God is that he is omnipresent, or everywhere present. He is not confined to be only in one place at a time. God, who is spirit, fills time and space. There is nowhere that he is not. This is how Jesus can say to twelve men and their followers who would scatter across the globe:

Matthew 28:20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Omniscient

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.)

Jesus teaches us that God is omniscient. He knows everything. He knows what will happen in the distant future. He knows what is in the hearts of men.

Eternal

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 teaches that God is the Living One. He is eternal. As we saw in the earlier verses, he eternally existed. He has no beginning and will have no end. He is. Jesus said “I AM” (Jn.8:24, 58).

Life Giver

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

Not only is God the eternal Living One, he is the Life Giver. He gives life to whom he will. He is the fountain and source of life. All life comes from him.

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?”

Holy

Mark 1:24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are––the Holy One of God.”

Jesus taught that God is holy, distinct, separate, set apart, totally other, one-of-a-kind. Even the demons recognized in Jesus a uniqueness – he is in a category by himself.

Perfect

Mark 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus showed us that God is perfect. He lacks no good quality. He is not deficient in any way.

True

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus teaches us that God is truth. God is entirely trustworthy. He never lies. His word is true. He will keep his promises.

Jealous

John 2:15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money–changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus demonstrates that God is passionate about his own glory. He zealously defends the honor of his own name. He will tolerate no rivals. For the good of his people, he will violently take action against those who misrepresent him.

Wrath

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus teaches us that God is a God of anger and wrath. But God is not capricious or volatile. He is slow to anger, and his anger is righteous anger, mixed with compassionate sorrow over the effects of sin.

In the well known passage describing the love of God, Jesus also warns of the wrath of God.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

God intensely hates sin. God is to be feared, his wrath is terrifying, but his wrath can be escaped. He has provided a way.

Just

When the religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus for judgment,

John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus taught that God is just. He does not show favoritism. His judgments are true and righteous.

Mercy

But he also taught that God is merciful and compassionate, eager to forgive. To this woman who was clearly guilty, he said:

John 8:11 …And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Love

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Jesus taught us that God is love. Before the world was created, God, Father, Son and Spirit, lived in an eternal relationship of genuine love. Jesus also teaches us what love is.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love is not a romantic feeling of attraction, but self-sacrificial action for the good of the one loved, regardless of how little they deserve it.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus went to the cross to demonstrate God’s self-giving love.

Response:

We have merely scratched the surface of what God is like as revealed in the person of Jesus, or Immanuel, God with us. I invite you to make it your life-long pursuit to deepen your affection and devotion for God by becoming a disciple, a follower of Jesus

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

December 18, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:18-21 Epilogue; Response to God’s Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110925_exodus20_18-21.mp3

09/25 Exodus 20:18-21 Epilogue – Response to God’s Presence; Request for a Mediator

We have for the past ten weeks studied God’s ten words to his people. God is communicating what is expected of the people he has redeemed out of slavery, people he has taken to be his own, what is expected of those who live in relationship with him. Now, at the conclusion of God’s thunderous voice from heaven, we see the response of the people to his words. This has great insight for us in how we relate to God.

We have been focusing in some detail on each of God’s ten words. To get the flow of this passage, I want to step back from examining the individual trees and take in the big picture of the forest and how it all fits together. So let’s read through chapters 19 and 20 of Exodus.

The Covenant Proposal

19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Preparation to Meet God

9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

The Context of the Meeting

16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.”’ 24 And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

God Speaks to His People

20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 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. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The People’s Response

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

May God bless the reading of his word, and may we, his people respond with deeper trust and heartfelt obedience and worship.

Covenant Relationship

So we see, God is entering into relationship with the people he has delivered, laying out the terms of this covenant relationship.

The word in verse 18 translated ‘flashes of lightning’ is interesting. It is a different Hebrew word from the lightnings of 19:16, and it only appears one other place in the five books of Moses.

Genesis 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

This was where God cut his covenant with Abraham. Now as he enters into covenant with the exodus generation, he uses this word to remind us that he is the God of Abraham, who graciously enters into relationship with his people and who always keeps his promises.

The Fear of God

God makes himself known in a way that terrifies the people. He requires that they make proper preparation to meet with the holy God. God manifests himself in thunder, lightning, earthquake, fire, smoke, and thick darkness, with loud trumpet blasts, so that the people trembled.

He establishes boundaries and warns the people of the danger of getting too close to a holy God uninvited. Moses spoke to God and God answered in thunder. Moses is down at the foot of the mountain with the people. God, from above the mountain, wrapped in smoke and thick darkness, with fire and earthquake and trumpet blasts, thundered out his ten commands to his people. We see the response of the people in verse 18

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off

The people respond with fear and distance themselves from God. They were already kept at a distance by the boundaries that had been established. Now they wanted to flee. Certainly part of their fear came from this terror inducing display of God’s presence. But a great part of their fear would come from the content of what God said. His ten words to them would stir in their hearts the guilt of having already fallen short of God’s perfect standards, and the fear of further failing to live up to his expectations.

the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

They recognized that the wages of sin is death. This presence of a holy God carried life and death severity, and the people were acutely aware that they fell painfully short. Throughout the bible, this is the effect God’s presence has on his people: ‘Woe to me, for I am utterly sinful and God is perfectly holy.’

Two Kinds of Fear

the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

God reveals himself to his people. The people are terrified. Moses tells them ‘do not fear, God has come so that you will fear him; don’t be afraid – the whole purpose for God coming to you was to make you afraid.’ At first, this sounds like double talk. ‘Don’t be afraid because God came to make you afraid.’ There must be a right and proper fear of God, which is the fear God intended to produce in his people, and there must be an improper fear that Moses tells the people not to have.

The improper fear was what they were doing. They were standing far off. God had set boundaries for them, and they were distancing themselves even more from God. Their fear of God made them want to run and hide in guilty shame, to avoid God, to run from him. This is the fear that Moses rebukes. Do not fear God in such a way that you flee from him. This is the fear John is talking about when he writes:

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

John has been talking about the love of God for us in sending his own Son to be the propitiation for our sins (4:10) and our Savior (4:14), and that this is our confidence for the day of judgment (4:17). Do not fear God’s punishment so that you run away from him to try to hide yourself from him

The good kind of fear is an awe-filled admiration of who God is in all his omnipotent power and all-present awareness and absolute righteousness. It is a realization of the complete other-ness of God, his holiness and perfection and hatred of all impurity and evil. It is an awareness that he is good and righteous and just and that he will punish all wrong-doers. It is a fear of doing anything that would displease this holy God. This is a fear that desires more than anything to draw near in relationship to God. This is the fear that knows it cannot hide from God, so it lays its sinful self bare to the all seeing God and throws itself at his mercy. This is a sanctifying fear. The purpose of God’s coming was ‘to test you so that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ There is a good sanctifying effect of the proper fear of God. After Paul tells us in Philippians that every knee will bow to a sovereign Jesus, he tells us to

Philippians 2:12 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. This is that healthy fear of the ruling reigning Jesus that produces a passionate pursuit of holiness in thought and word and deed. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

The power to pursue holiness comes from the proper fear of God. This is why the bible over and over again tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Request for a Mediator

the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Notice what the people ask for? This is beautiful! They request a mediator! If we come face to face with a holy God, we will be undone. We need someone to go into God’s presence for us, and bring his words back to us. We will listen if God’s presence is mediated, but we are unfit and unable to survive his presence on our own. When God’s people understand who God is, when they begin to have a proper fear of him, then God’s people understand their need for a mediator. When we accurately understand who God is in his righteous majesty, we dare not approach him casually. We must have someone to go between us.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

We need a mediator. Jesus Christ is that mediator. He is the only one that can forgive sinners and bring us safely into the presence of almighty God. This is the good news!

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,…

Jesus took our place as sinners and suffered the righteous wrath of God. Now that our sins are paid for, he can bring us into the presence of the Father with great joy! (Jude 24). This is what the people longed for. This is what Moses pointed forward to.

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Jesus is our mediator. He mediates the new covenant, the better covenant, the contract by which he bore our sins and paid for them in full, and transfers to us his perfect righteousness, so that we can enjoy the presence of the Father forever.

Exodus 20:21 The people stood far off, while [he] drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” …38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Jesus, our mediator, went before us into the thick darkness where God was, and opened to us a way in to the very presence of the Father.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus invites us to come. Put your trust in Jesus alone and come.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Praise God for our mediator!

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful … and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

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

September 25, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 19:9-15; Prepare to Meet Your God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110619_exodus19_9-15.mp3

06/19 Exodus 19:9-15 Prepare to Meet Your God

Saved to Worship

God has saved his people. With a strong hand he brought them out from under their bondage to the Egyptians. His purpose was ‘Let my people go that they may serve me’ or ‘worship me.’ God’s people were saved to worship. God has brought them now to Mount Sinai, and he is about to formally introduce himself to his people. This is a hugely significant event and sets the stage for the giving of his law in the following chapters. The LORD instructs Moses to remind his people first of his grace toward them, and then of his purposes for them.

19:3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

Remind the people what I did. God is saying ‘Remember, I saved you all by myself. You didn’t deserve this. You were panicking – fearful and unbelieving. You stood by and watched. You saw what I did to your enemies. Remember I carried you when you were helpless. I brought you to myself. This is all God’s actions to save his undeserving people. Now that they have been saved, he reminds them of his purposes for them.

5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

God’s people have been delivered for a purpose. They were set free from bondage in order to worship and serve the one true God. They are God’s most prized possession among all that he owns. The whole nation is to be a kingdom, those who are under the authority of the King. And the whole nation is to be a kingdom of priests among the nations – they are to serve the nations by proclaiming the truth about God to them and bringing them into relationship with God. That is the role of a priest. They are to facilitate worship of the one true God. Through this one chosen nation, God intends to bless all the nations of the earth. They are to be set apart, distinct, different from all other nations, to serve as an example to the nations of what it looks like to obey God’s voice and keep his covenant.

7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

The people embraced God’s purposes for them. They formally agreed to his terms. Now God announces that the people are to prepare themselves to meet their God.

9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

Part of God’s purpose in this was to establish Moses’ leadership over his people. They had grumbled and complained against Moses, and this event is designed to remove any reason to question whether Moses is indeed called by God. But the language is much bigger than just to the Israelites way back then. Moses is to be believed forever. Moses has something to say to us today too.

Prepare to Meet Your God

God instructs Moses to prepare the people to meet their God. The LORD will come down in the sight of all the people. This is a visible manifestation of the invisible God, as we will see. Meeting with God is no light matter. God takes himself very seriously. The Hebrew word for the glory of God is a word that means weighty or heavy. This is serious. For a sinful human being to come into the presence of the all-holy God means death. When we are confronted with the holiness of God, we are made painfully aware of our own sinfulness. God in his justice must punish all sin. God cannot let any sin slide or he would cease to be just and righteous. The wages of sin is death. This is why when God makes his presence known to mortals, they say things like “Alas, O LORD God! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD” (Jud.6:22); and “Woe to me! For I am lost …for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa.6:5); or “The glory of the LORD stood there… and I fell on my face” (Eze.3:23). Deuteronomy 5 looks back on this event in amazement and says:

Deuteronomy 5:24 And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man and man still live.

Boundaries are to be established around the mountain for the protection of the people. When God called to Moses on this same mountain from the burning bush, he said:

Exodus 3:5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

The people are to be kept from approaching God uninvited on pain of death. God is dangerous. This is important for us to hear. We do not come to God on our own terms. If we are to come before God and survive the experience, we must come on his terms and his terms alone. We must be invited. God is to be feared and respected. He is not to be treated casually. Two young men in Leviticus chapter 10 learned this the hard way.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.

Our God is not safe. He is not to be trifled with. Our God is a consuming fire, awesome and terrible. He is King of kings. Over and over the scriptures tell us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. He is just and will by no means let the guilty go unpunished. This is not just an Old Testament thing. Jesus taught:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus is teaching his followers to fear his Father. Fear God and God alone, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. God is to be taken seriously. It is a weighty thing to come into the presence of the living God.

Consecration

Even for those who are to be kept at a safe distance, they must prepare. God sent Moses down to consecrate the people. This is a two day process. They are to be set apart to the LORD. As part of this preparation, they were to abstain from normal sexual relations. Intimacy with your spouse was to be postponed for a short time in order to focus attention on intimacy with God. This is also taught in the New Testament:

1Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self–control.

Did you know that God is pro-sex? He is for it! He came up with the idea. He intends it to be a beautiful, pleasurable expression of intimacy within the context of the covenant faithfulness of marriage. Marital abstinence is to be the exception, not the rule, and only for a very specific purpose.

His people are also instructed to wash their clothes. Remember, again, they are not being told to clean themselves up in order to make themselves acceptable to God. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

We are all lawbreakers, and stand condemned before God. Nothing we do can cover our guilt before God.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Our only hope is mercy – not getting what we so justly deserve. Our only hope is a generous gift freely given to undeserving sinners. God has already taken decisive action to save his people. Now he is commanding that they prepare to meet him.

They are told to wash their clothes. They are not told to take a bath. According to 1 Corinthians 10:2, they had already been baptized in the cloud and in the sea. Now they are being told simply to wash their clothes. We are not told how or where they do this, but if we have been following the story, when the people came to the mountain, there was no water, and God provided water by commanding that the rock be struck with his staff. This is the last water mentioned. If this is the case, then this scene is rich with symbolism. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the Rock was Christ. In preparation to meet God, his people are to wash their clothes in the water which flows from the Rock who was smitten for them.

What a beautiful picture. Although God is to be feared, man’s greatest good is to be in the presence of this fearsome God. To be separated from God forever is quite literally hell. And yet for a sinner to be in the presence of a holy God means justice and punishment and death. What are we to do with this dilemma? There is nothing we can do.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved–– … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated … strangers…, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hopeless sinners brought near to a holy God – how? By the blood of Christ.

1John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. …14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

When we were not loving God, God sent his only Son to satisfy his own wrath against our hatred of him. O what love! Amazing love!

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,

Brought into the presence of absolute purity by the sacrifice of the perfect substitute, Jesus Christ the Righteous, suffering for the sins of the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.

Jude :24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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

June 19, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psalm 95; Worship and Warning

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110522-psalm95.mp3

05/22 Psalm 95 – Worship and Warning

Psalm, 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”

This Psalm is a Psalm of worship and warning; it is a call to worship and caution against unbelief. It looks back to the God who created all things and is worthy of our worship, back to the God who saves us, and back to the Exodus account of the grumbling at Massah and Meribah and the consequences of unbelief, and it looks forward to the joy of entering into the presence of God. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament picks up this Psalm and warns and encourages us to take a sober look at our own hearts to be sure that we don’t miss out.

Corporate Worship

This is a corporate call to worship. It is an invitation to the group to sing, to make a joyful noise, to come into God’s presence, to offer thanksgiving and songs of praise to him together. There is such a thing as private worship. In your car or in your closet, you can get alone with God and speak to him, sing to him, give thanks and praise to him. That is good. Private worship is necessary. You can worship God as a family. Husbands, we need to lead our wives to know Jesus better. Fathers and mothers, we need to teach our children to follow the Lord. God must be the center of our homes. We should sing together and pray together and read the bible together as families in our homes. The responsibility for the Christian education of children falls primarily to families. Whatever the church does to instruct children is only intended to supplement what families do at home.

The Church

But this is a public call to worship. This is an invitation to join the assembly of believers in corporate worship. Private worship is critical. family worship is essential. But neglect of corporate worship is also forbidden in scripture.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

It is true that Jesus loves each of us individually, specifically. ‘The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me (Gal.2:20) It is also true that:

Ephesians 5:25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

The church is the collective group of believers. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The church Jesus builds is not a structure with walls and roof. What Jesus builds is a living organism made up of people.

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The bible does not talk about when you come to the church (building), but rather:

1 Corinthians 11:18 …when you come together as a church, …

The church is the group of believers meeting together to worship God. This Psalm is a call to public worship.

Worship

Psalm, 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

As a group, we are invited to sing to the LORD. Singing is one primary expression of worship that we do as a group. We sing to YHWH, the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Singing is making a joyful noise. Worship is an expression of joy. We have much to be joyful about. We will get to some of that as we go through this Psalm. The Rock smitten for us, out of which life-giving water flows, is Christ Jesus. We are invited to make a joyful noise to Jesus, the rock of our salvation.

The Presence of God

We are invited into his presence. That is staggering if we stop to think about it – the presence of God himself, absolute holiness and righteousness. The most righteous men we know were undone and loathed themselves when confronted with the absolute holiness of the presence of the living God. At the end of time, the kings of the earth flee from the presence of the Lamb.

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”.

It is because sinners cannot stand in the presence of a holy God without justice being done to them. When we are around people that are worse sinners than we are, we can feel pretty good about ourselves. When we are in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God, that all goes away and we recognize how desperately far we fall short.

Psalm 90:7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

The presence of God for a sinner is the most terrifying place imaginable. But the presence of God is also the most desirable thing. The pornography industry plays on our desire to look on perfect beauty, a beauty that will satisfy our deepest longings. We always come up empty wanting more because only God can satisfy the human soul. The human soul is hungry for God.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

That which only will satisfy is out of reach for us because to be in the presence of God means judgment for sinners. That is why we make a joyful noise to Jesus, the Rock of our salvation. We are in a hopeless situation, and Jesus, the perfect God-man comes to our rescue by bearing our sin and enduring the wrath of God in our place, washing us clean so that we can enjoy his perfect presence forever. That is something to make noise about! That calls for songs of loudest praise! We approach with deep thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us.

More Grounds for Worship

This Psalm goes on to give us more grounds for praising him:

Psalm 95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, is a great God. In a pluralistic polytheistic society where the Egyptians have their gods and the Canaanites have their gods and the Midianites have their gods, the God of Israel is not merely one God among many. He is great, he is greater in magnitude, he is greater in importance, he is greater in age – he comes before all other gods. He is the king or sovereign over all other so-called gods. They are under him and answer to him and serve him.

Psalm 95;4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

This God owns all things. The deepest mines in the earth are in his hand. He owns the highest peaks. The sea was a terrifying unknown when this was written, dangerous uncontrollable unpredictable chaos, and he owns it because he made it. His hands formed the land. Everything belongs to him. Everything, including us:

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

We are called to corporate worship because we are owned by our Creator. It is what we are made for. He has creative rights over us. He is our Maker. We worship, we bow down, we kneel and pay homage to him. He is our God. This, too, is an amazing statement. Not only is he Creator God, but we have a relationship with him. He is our God. We are his people. He is our shepherd. He cares for us. We are the sheep of his hand. This is personal, intimate, tender.

Now comes the warning:

Psalm 95:7 …Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”

There is a danger to be avoided. Today! Today! Today! Right now, right here, pay attention! This is urgent. This demands an immediate response from us. Do not procrastinate. Do not put this off. The voice of the Shepherd is calling. Will you listen? Will you heed? Will you obey? There is a tendency, a historical tendency to harden our hearts against the voice of the Lord. There is a tendency to harden against the call to worship.

Massah and Meribah

We are pointed back to the history of the Exodus as a warning. Remember Meribah? The word means strife, contention, complaining, quarreling. The people grumbled against their leader. They quarreled. They had a need that wasn’t getting met in their time and in their way and so they complained. It was a legitimate need. But there was an undercurrent of discontent primarily directed at the leadership, and God took it personally. Massah means testing. God said ‘you are testing me.’ All complaining, all grumbling is ultimately directed at God. If God is in control of all things and orchestrates all circumstances, and he promises to work them for our good, then when we are discontented with our situation, it is an arrogant affront to his wisdom and goodness. We are demonstrating a lack of faith, a lack of trust in him as our sovereign provider. This is why the New Testament has so much to say about grumbling and complaining.

1 Corinthians 10:9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life…

James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Words come from the Heart

God takes our words so seriously because they indicate our heart condition. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

God is not interested in mere external conformity to his standards. He wants our hearts. He wants to capture our wills. He wants to consume our thoughts. He wants to be the center of our affections. In the Psalm his accusation is “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” God uses very strong language against this; ‘I loathed them,’ ‘I swore in my wrath.’ Grumbling, complaining, quarreling is evidence of a deeper sin. These sheep had gone astray in their hearts. They had abandoned God. They had hardened their hearts toward the voice of their Shepherd. James, who has a lot to say about what comes out of our mouths, also makes the connection between heart and tongue:

James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Paul addresses the heart issue positively:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

We were created to worship. We are invited to come into the presence of God united in praise to his great name. But we have an awful tendency to become callous toward God and contentious with each other. Today, we must be on our guard. Today we must guard our hearts from going astray. Today, we must choose to worship. 

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

May 22, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday – John 12:12-33 – We Would See Jesus!

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110417_palm-sunday.mp3

04/17 Palm Sunday – John 12:12-33

Intro:

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. I want to look at the text from John’s account of the gospel that is the history behind this day. We find this in John chapter 12. (The events are also recorded in Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19). Jesus is in his final week, the passion week, leading up to his crucifixion. He had raised his friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days, from the dead. Jesus was now back at Lazarus’ house in Bethany, the home of his dear friends Martha and Mary. Mary, in an act of devotion and love, broke open a vial of ointment worth about one year’s salary, and anointed Jesus. Jesus defended her action, saying that she was anointing him for his burial. Crowds were gathering in Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover celebration, and many were taking the short trip to Bethany to see Jesus and the man he had raised from the dead. So many Jews were believing in Jesus because of this, that the chief priests were plotting to have Lazarus put to death. This is where we’ll pick up the story:

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Hero’s Welcome

This is where we get the name ‘Palm Sunday’. This was a hero’s welcome; a royal welcome. This was a king’s welcome. The newly crowned king would be welcomed in this way by his subjects as he came to take his throne and rule. The people are welcoming Jesus as king. But not just any king. The people are quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm of victory over the enemy, a song of triumphant return from battle. This is the valiant king, commanding that the gates be opened to welcome him. In Psalm 118:22-29, it says:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. 29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Hosanna!

Verses 25 and 26 say ‘Save us we pray, O LORD!… Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!…’ This is what the people are quoting as their King rides to Jerusalem. The Hebrew word “Hosanna” means ‘save us we pray’. Israel is under Roman occupation. The Jews are looking for their Messiah, the anointed king that would rescue them, that would deliver them from the power of the Romans and give them back their freedom. The people are looking to Jesus to be this victorious king. In John 6, after Jesus had fed the multitudes, the people declared that he was the promised Prophet who was to come, and they wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king, but Jesus withdrew by himself to the wilderness. This time, when the people are crying out ‘Save us, King of Israel who comes in the name of the LORD’ and giving him a royal welcome, he does not avoid them; in fact, he encourages them.

14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

The Donkey

Here we see Jesus intentionally fulfilling prophecy. The quote is from Zechariah 9:9

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

In the other three gospel accounts, we are told that Jesus sent disciples ahead to get this donkey so that it would be ready. Typically, the king would come triumphantly riding his war horse. But Jesus is a different kind of king. He comes in humility, riding on a donkey.

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

The World has Gone After Him!

The Pharisees entirely miss the point. They think they are in a popularity contest and they are losing. Jesus by his actions is teaching the people that he is a different kind of king than what they expect, and his salvation will be different from what they expect. He is indeed coming as King to save them, but in humility, not pride. And he will save the people, not from the Romans, but from themselves. The Pharisees, though, unknowingly make a profound analysis. Look, the world has gone after him. John uses this statement as a connection to some Greeks who were seeking Jesus.

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

The Greeks Seek Jesus

Greeks were coming to see Jesus. Among the crowds of Jews who came to worship at the Passover feast, were some Greeks, probably God-fearing Greeks, those who were intrigued by the Jewish scriptures and believed that the God of the Jews was the one true God. Possibly proselytes – those who had no Jewish genealogy, but who believed in God and became Jews through circumcision. They would be allowed into the temple’s court of the Gentiles to worship. They don’t feel they have any access directly to Jesus, so they go through the disciples. Their request is simple yet profound. ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. Simple faith! Would that we had this kind of desire, this kind of boldness. The world has gone after Jesus. Now there are Greeks that want to know Jesus. They come to Philip, Philip goes to Andrew, Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. Look how Jesus answers:

23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The Glory of a Seed

At first read, this seems like a strange answer, if it is even answering the question at all. Greeks want to see you Jesus, and you start talking about being glorified and planting wheat and hating life. How does this answer their question? We need to understand what Jesus means when he says ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. Throughout the gospels, Jesus had been saying ‘my hour has not yet come’. Now he says ‘The hour has come’. The time is now. His whole life was leading up to some focal point, some climax. He uses his favorite title for himself ‘the Son of Man’, a title that comes from Daniel 7, a title showing his perfect humanity, but a title of the one who is the everlasting King. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. What does he mean ‘glorified’? To glorify is to honor, to cause the dignity and worth of someone to be made known. The climactic time has come for Jesus, the perfect human representative, to be put on display and seen for the all the excellencies of who he is. What climactic event is he referring to that would put his glory on display? This royal welcome into Jerusalem where he was hailed as king, with everyone laying down cloaks and palm branches for him to walk on was pretty impressive, but that is already past. What is going to bring him the greatest glory? He tells us clearly in the context. He chooses the metaphor of a seed. A seed is very unimpressive if it is kept on the shelf. To unlock the potential of the seed, it needs to go into the dirt. A seed on a shelf is not seen for what it really is. It might be safe, but its real potential is lost. It remains alone. Jesus talks about the necessity for wheat to fall into the ground and die so it can bear fruit.

Remember, this is all in response to the Greeks who want an audience with him. How is this answering their request? ‘We want to see Jesus.’ It is time for the Son of Man to die so that he can produce much fruit and be seen for who he really is. Jesus is the Jewish King, coming to save, but he will save not just the Jews, but also the Greeks, and he will save, not by military might from political oppression, for that would be no help to the Greeks; but he will save us from our sins by dying for us. King Jesus marches in to Jerusalem to take his throne, but his throne is in the shape of a cross. He will be nailed to this throne and lifted up for all to see. The hour has now come for the Son of Man, the representative of all men not just Jews, to be exalted by dying in order to bear the fruit of salvation for anyone that will follow him, including these Greeks. The whole world has gone after him! ‘Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me he must follow me, he will be with me, and my Father will honor him’. Jesus is pointing the Greeks to his death as the event that will open up to all men the way of salvation. Are we on the right track in understanding what Jesus is saying? Let’s keep reading:

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.”

The Troubled Soul of Jesus

Jesus’ soul is troubled? What would trouble the soul of the Prince of Peace? What would cause anxiety in the heart of the one who taught us not to be anxious? What would incline him to desire to be rescued by his Father out of this hour? What would the Savior want to be saved from? If we ask why he came, we get some indication of what is troubling his soul. In John 10, Jesus said ‘I lay down my life for the sheep’ (v.15, 17). ‘I give [my sheep] eternal life and they will never perish’ (v.28). In John 6, Jesus said ‘the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’ (v.51). In Mark 10, 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.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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

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

What troubled the soul of Jesus to the point that he would desire escape is the prospect of bearing my sins. For the holy God who abhors sin to bear my sin, to take my sin upon himself, for the spotless lamb of God to become sin, for the innocent guiltless one to have my iniquity laid to his account would be unthinkable. For the first time in eternity the Father would look on his beloved Son not with love, affection and approval but disgust, anger, and judgment. Yet Jesus says ‘But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name’. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on flesh, entered history and became human, with the sole purpose of being executed as a sin-bearing substitute for guilty mankind. Jesus looked at the prospect of being forsaken by his Father and it sent his soul into turmoil. ‘Nevertheless,’ he prayed, ‘not my will, but yours, be done’ (Lk.22:42)

28 …Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

So here we are explicitly told that he is talking about his crucifixion – the death of being lifted up. The deepest expression of love and obedience – ‘Father save me’? No, but ‘Father, glorify your name’. His Father answered him from heaven. The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son is seen in the crucifixion. God’s character and nature is displayed for all to see. Absolute in holiness, perfect in righteousness and exacting justice, impossible to let sin slide, yet abounding in mercy and grace, eager to forgive offending sinners, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. Satisfying the demands of justice and righteousness while extending undeserved mercy to wicked sinners by absorbing in his own person the weight of the injury. ‘Now is the judgment of this world’. God’s holy wrath against all our sin is poured out now – absorbed in the perfect Lamb that God himself provided. ‘Now the ruler of this world is cast out’ -because the rightful ruler has taken his throne. Jesus the King, lifted up on a cross, enthroned in glory dying for the sins of the world, now draws people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation to himself.

Jesus wants to draw you today. Jesus is a different kind of King and offers a different kind of salvation. He comes to conquer, but to conquer by dying. He comes to conquer, not our enemies, but us. He comes to conquer our hard hearts by loving us, by entering our pain and bearing our guilt before his Father. Do you see him as glorious? Do you recognize the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son revealed on the cross? Do you see the point at which absolute holy justice and free and undeserved mercy meet? We would see Jesus! We would see Jesus! We would see Jesus!

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

April 17, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 15:1-21; The Song of the Sea – Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110320_exodus15_1-21.mp3

03/20 Exodus 15:1-21 The Song of the Sea

God’s stated purpose in the exodus was to make himself known. They Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD; you shall know that I am the LORD; I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his hosts.

Exodus 9:14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 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.

‘I could have done it differently’ God says. ‘But I do things the way I am doing them so that you may know that there is none like me. I am doing this for the good of my people and for the fame of my name in all the earth.’

Exodus 14:4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.”…

Exodus 14:18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

God is out to get glory for himself. He is out to display his power, so that his name will be proclaimed in all the earth. God is out to display his sovereign uniqueness, his unmatched supremacy. We are told to stop being afraid of anyone but God, to be still and stop stirring up dust that obscures God’s glory. We are told to be spectators of God’s great salvation as God works salvation for us. The LORD fights for his people. God acts alone for our salvation. We have only to be silent.

Exodus 14:13 …“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

The prophet Isaiah puts it this way:

Isaiah 64:4 From of old no one has heard

or perceived by the ear,

no eye has seen a God besides you,

who acts for those who wait for him.

We have seen God take his people out of Egypt. God’s people were unbelieving, complaining, fighting against God’s plan, questioning God’s wisdom and capability. They cried out for help, but when God stepped in to help, they didn’t like how he was helping. God was acting for their good, but they didn’t know what good was. They considered slavery in Egypt better than the presence of God in the wilderness. They needed their sense of ‘better’ re-calibrated. But praise God, he took his grumbling doubting complaining discontented argumentative people and he saved them anyway! He saved them without their help or cooperation. He saved them in the most inconceivable way. He saved them by himself. Chapter 14 concludes:

14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

I wish I had a recording of this song as it was originally sung. The bible tells us that there were about 600,000 men, besides women and children (Ex.12:37; 38:26; Num.1:46). I’ve sung with a group of pastors at the Minneapolis convention center numbering close to 2,000 and it was ground shaking and heart stirring. This is exponentially more, 300 times more men than that – and that’s not counting the women and children that were part of the crowd. I wonder how it happened – if it started with Moses at one end of the multitude and slowly mounted and spread and reverberated back until all were belting out at the top of their lungs worship and praise to their awesome God. Remember, these are the people that were gripped with terror as Pharaoh’s army overtook them by the sea and they had no hope and no way out. These are the people who saw God supernaturally part the sea and make a dry path for them to escape from their enemies. These are the people who saw with their own eyes the highly trained military of Pharaoh pursuing them into the sea, the same people who saw God crush their enemies under the sea so that not one was left. The text says the LORD saved Israel that day. They saw, they feared, they believed. And then they sang. Let’s try to hear them as they respond to God’s awesome salvation with worship.

15:1 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The LORD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The LORD is a man of war;

the LORD is his name.

4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,

and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

5 The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

6 Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,

your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.

7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;

you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.

8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’

10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

12 You stretched out your right hand;

the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;

you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;

pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;

all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

16 Terror and dread fall upon them;

because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

till your people, O LORD, pass by,

till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,

the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

18 The LORD will reign forever and ever.”

19 For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.

20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.

21 And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Worship. Worship is an act of adoration or affection; declaring the worth of God to God. Worship, although not limited to singing, often finds expression in singing. We proclaim the truth about God and the things God has done in an emotionally charged celebration that we all vocally participate in.

It has been said that songs of worship are the take-home theology of the church. As you’re doing the dishes or disciplining the kids or celebrating God’s provision or facing a great trial, whether you start humming the tune or full-on belting out the words when no one is there to hear you, if the song is solid, you are rehearsing your theology and declaring your doctrine. Music is powerful. Two days from now you probably won’t remember much of what I’ve said this morning, but you might catch yourself humming a tune that we sang this morning. Sometimes I find myself whistling a hymn that I haven’t sung for over 20 years.

So I want to look at this song and ask the question ‘what makes a good worship song?’ What patterns do we see in this song that we could follow to enhance our worship of God?

Is it even legitimate to take this song as a good example to follow? I think we are justified in taking this song, because this song gets sung again. This song is sung in heaven.

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

Great and amazing are your deeds,

O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways,

O King of the nations!

4 Who will not fear, O Lord,

and glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come

and worship you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

What’s not in this song?

Let’s start by looking at what’s missing. What is absent from this song? Me. I am missing. The song begins “I will sing; I will praise; I will exalt him‘ and it quickly forgets about self and focuses on God. I am not the center of the song. It is personal; it comes from my heart. But this is God-centered worship. In Miriam’s refrain the declaration ‘I will’ is left off and it becomes an imperative command; sing! Everyone, sing to the LORD. God is the subject and the object of the song. It is a song about God and it is sung to God. This song is characterized by an utter forgetfulness of self.

Psalms 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

God here fulfills his purpose of making himself known and getting glory for himself. His people forget about themselves, their successes, their fears, their failures. They sing about God.

What does this song say about God?

So what does this God-saturated God-centered song say about God? We could divide it into two main categories: who God is and what God does.

Who God is

This song celebrates who God is. God’s people declare the character and nature of God. They sing the attributes of God.

15:1 …he has triumphed gloriously; -risen risingly; gloriously triumphant; -the victor, conqueror

2 The LORD is my strength and my song, -supplier/source of strength; theme of my music, worthy of worship; Yah (shortened form of YHWH)

and he has become my salvation; -God who saves, rescues

this is my God, and I will praise him, -personal intimate connection

my father’s God, and I will exalt him. – historical tie – not a new god; legacy

3 The LORD is a man of war; -warrior; the one who fights the battle

the LORD is his name. -proper name YHWH not title; the one who is; self-existent

6 Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, -majestic force

your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. -supreme over adversary

7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries – multiplied excellency; pride –only being for whom pride is not a sin – throws down or tears down enemies

you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. -fierce heat of just wrath

11 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? -unrivaled; incomparable;

Who is like you, majestic in holiness, -gloriously set apart; totally separate; other

awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? -terrifying in fame or renown; awe inspiring; acting in extraordinary ways;

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; -faithful lovingkindness; unfailing love toward his people; ‘goel’ redeemer – pays the purchase price, protects and rescues because of family obligation

you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. -one who leads to a place of rest and refreshment; mighty power; brings us apart to his dwelling place

16 Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, -inspires horrific terror; power is great in magnitude

till the people pass by whom you have purchased. -becomes the owner by acquisition; possessor

18 The LORD will reign forever and ever.” king perpetually from ancient times throughout eternity

God’s people celebrate in song God’s attributes; he is victorious; he is the source of strength; the theme of worship; he is rescuer; proven faithful; warrior; he is self-existent; all powerful; conqueror; he deserves to be proud; he is justly angry; he is unrivaled; incomparable; totally set apart; awe-inspiring; he is active in power; he is our faithful lover; our purchaser/ redeemer; our caring guide; he dwells with his people; he is the perpetual king. That is who he is.

What God does

The song celebrates not only the character and attributes of God, but the real historical actions of God. Let’s look at what he does.

15:1 for he has triumphed gloriously;

the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. -thrown off /thrown down

2 and he has become my salvation;

4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, -thrown, hurled, shot

and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. -even the elite were drowned

5 The floods covered them; -primordial abyss, destructive chaos waters of judgment, ancient deeps

they went down into the depths like a stone.

6 your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.

7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; -tear down, beat down, destroy

you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. -heat of his fierce wrathful displeasure -let go; as God demanded Pharaoh to send out his people

8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; -anger; flared nostrils

the floods stood up in a heap; -running waters piled up

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. -primordial abyss thickened or curdled

10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; -wind, spirit, breath

they sank like lead in the mighty waters. -not just a marshy swamp!

12 You stretched out your right hand;

the earth swallowed them. -could mean sheol or the underworld; engulfed

God kills his enemies

What they are memorializing in song seems to be all about God destroying his enemies. God triumphs; throws down; hurls; covers with the deep; shatters; tears down; consumes with fury; flares his nostrils; congeals the abyss; immerses in the mighty waters; swallows his enemies up in the underworld.

Isn’t killing people mean? Doesn’t God have to follow his own commandments? The short answer is ‘no’. God is just. God is the judge. God says ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’. It belongs to God to give life and to take life. That is his right, not ours. Remember, these are the sworn enemies of God. They had seen God’s mighty acts first hand. They could have joined with the Israelites in the mixed multitude as they left Egypt but they did not. Verse 9 chronicles in six ‘I will’ statements their rebellious attitude:

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’

This is as they are pursuing God’s people into the parted Red Sea! They have demonstrated that they are persistently evil and unrepentant. God is not obligated to give them a second chance (or, in this case, an eleventh chance!) God as savior of his people now crushes his enemies so they can no longer pursue them. In a fallen world hostile to God’s purposes, YHWH must be a warrior. God’s anger against evil and his destruction of those who oppose him are inherent aspects of his majesty. God is just and will not tolerate evil. God is abundantly patient, but evil will be totally eradicated. That is something we should celebrate!

The song goes on to describe the terror that is planted in the hearts of the future enemies of Israel.

14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;

pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;

trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;

all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

16 Terror and dread fall upon them;

because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

till your people, O LORD, pass by,

till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

God cares for his people

The song also talks about what God does for his own people.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;

you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

16 …the people pass by whom you have purchased.

17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,

the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

18 The LORD will reign forever and ever.”

19 For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.

This is quite the switch from ‘you have led us out here to die!’ He leads in steadfast love. He redeems. He guides into his house. He purchases his people. He brings us in and plants us, roots us in his presence, the place he has prepared for us. He reigns.

Jesus

They sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Christ our passover is slain for us. All of this points us to Jesus. Jesus is the victorious conqueror of sin and death and hell; he is the source of our strength; the theme of our worship; he is rescuer, God our savior; proven faithful; the warrior who fights for us; he is self-existent; omnipotent LORD; he is lifted up and seated at the right hand of his Father; he is justly angry and will tread the wine-press of the wrath of God; he will eradicate all evil; he is unrivaled; incomparable; totally set apart; awe-inspiring; he is active in resurrection power; he is our faithful lover; our purchaser and redeemer who paid for our sins at the cross with his own blood; he demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, while we were his enemies Christ died for us. Jesus is our gentle shepherd and caring guide who leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake; he is Immanuel, God with us, he goes to prepare a place for us; Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords and every knee shall bow to him and give him glory! That is who he is.

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

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What did Jesus Teach about Us?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110123_teach_about_man.mp3

01/23 What did Jesus teach – about humanity?

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ final command to his followers before he ascended into heaven. He commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples.

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.”

We are to follow Jesus.

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We are to abide in the truth that Jesus spoke, and to be set free by it. We are to pass on information, character and passion that results in a transformed life. We are to have content, character and conviction that is contagious to those around us. We’ve been looking at what that means. We looked at what Jesus taught about God. We looked at how Jesus taught – and his view of the Scriptures.

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about humanity, where we came from, what we are like, and where we are going.

Where we came from

Jesus is very clear about where we came from. We are the special creation of God, unique and distinct from all his other creation, created with dignity and worth in the sight of God, made in the very image of God.

-created by God:

In Jesus’ teaching against divorce, Jesus points us back to the created order.

Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

Jesus is very clear that we are the creation of God. We were formed or made or created by God. From the very beginning of creation God has made mankind as distinctly male or distinctly female.

Look at how Jesus talks to the hypocritical Pharisees:

Luke 11:39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and he calls them fools, but he argues from the fact that even they were made by God inside and out. Jesus believed and taught that each of us are the special creation of God. As the Psalmist says:

Psalms 139:13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (c.f. Job 10:11)

-most valuable of creation:

Jesus teaches not only that we are the special creation of God, but that we are the most valuable of his creation. Jesus says:

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 10:31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 12:12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! …

Luke 12:7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

So according to Jesus, we are the special creation of God, unique and distinct from the rest of his creation, and we are of greater worth to God than his other creatures.

-the image of God

Jesus gives us another clue as to what he believed about the nature of man when he was asked about paying taxes to Caesar. The Pharisees and Herodians were attempting to entangle him in his talk by asking him a question about Jews paying taxes to the Roman government. They thought they had him no matter which way he answered. But his answer amazed them all. He said:

Luke 20:24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness (eikwna) and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus careful answer is using the language of Genesis:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Jesus is saying that the coins that bear Caesar’s image can be given to Caesar, but because you bear the image of God, you must give yourselves to God.

-children of God?

Does it follow from this unique place we hold among God’s creatures, as bearing the very image of God, that we are by default God’s children? This is a more complex question. When we studied what Jesus taught about himself, we saw that he claimed a totally unique position as the only Son of the Father. Consider John 3:16

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 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. (cf. Mt.10:32; 11:27; Jn.1:14; 3:35; 5:18, 22-23; 10:30; 17:5; et al.)

Jesus claimed to have a totally unique and distinct relationship to his Father. He claimed to be the only Son of God. But he also taught his followers to pray “Our Father in heaven” (Mt.6:9). Over and over in his teaching in Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus refers to God as ‘your Father’ or ‘your heavenly Father’. So how do we put this together? How does Jesus claim to be the only son of God and then tell us to call God ‘Our Father’?

-who is your father?

In John 8, Jesus had a dispute with the religious leaders of his day over the issue of ancestry and descent.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing what your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father––even God.”

(Here they stoop to slinging mud. It was common knowledge that Mary was pregnant with Jesus before the relationship between her and Joseph was consummated. Of course the religious leaders didn’t buy the ‘Holy Spirit conception in the womb of the virgin’ story, so they implied that Jesus was a bastard – an illegitimate child – born of sexual immorality. Look at how Jesus answers them – full of grace and truth)

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

So in this passage Jesus flatly denies the claim of the religious leaders that they were children of God. He says, no, God is not your Father. I came from God. You are of your father the devil.

Jesus tells the religious leaders who rejected him that they cannot call themselves children of God, but instead they are children of the devil. Jesus claims to be the only Son of God, and then he invites us, his followers, to address God as Father. How do we put this all together?

-becoming children of God

If we go back to the context of John 3, where Jesus makes the clear statement that he is the only Son of God, we find some help. John 3:16 is toward the end of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, also a Pharisee. Nicodemus has concluded that Jesus must be from God because of the signs he had done.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus points Nicodemus to his need for the new birth. He had been born of flesh. He needed to be born of the Spirit – born from above – in order to have spiritual or eternal life. This, Jesus said, comes from believing in Jesus crucified for sinners. John has already pointed to this at the prologue to his gospel.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus gives believers in him the right to become children of God. So we are not naturally children of God, but whoever believes in Jesus becomes a child of God by virtue of being born of God.

Paul appropriately uses the concept of adoption to describe our status as sons of God.

Galatians 4:4 …God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (cf. Romans 8:15)

So in Jesus’ teaching, we see that we are created by God, created as distinct from the rest of creation with great value in God’s sight, made in the very image of God. We are created image-bearers by nature, but not sons. We become God’s children only through the new birth.

What We are Like

What does Jesus say about our present condition?

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

That doesn’t sound very good. People were believing in Jesus but he wouldn’t entrust himself to them, because he knew what was in man. What was that? Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering.

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus here flat out assumes that we are all evil. He gets fired up when he sees people who he knows are evil putting on airs that they are good and righteous and holy. Jesus says:

Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I don’t know about you, but that settles it for me. If our hearts are judged by what comes out of our mouths, specifically every careless word, then I’m in trouble. Now don’t sit there thinking ‘I don’t use profanity, so I must be pretty good’. What do you talk about most? Imagine seeing a pie chart that details everything that comes out of your mouth in a week. How much of that pie would be giving glory and thanks to God? [pie chart] Jesus describes it pretty well:

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person…

When a rich young man came to Jesus thinking he was pretty good, but feeling that he still lacked something, Jesus made it clear:

Mark 10:18 …No one is good except God alone. (cf. Mt.19:17; Lk.18:19)

No one is good except God alone. The question is not if you are better than… The question is if you are in the good category or the evil category. We all find ourselves in the evil category. God alone is in the good category. Jesus said

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

You don’t hunger and thirst for something you have. Jesus calls those blessed who acknowledge they have a need and long for it to be filled.

So Jesus says that although we are the special creation of God, with great worth in his sight, bearing his image, we are basically evil, rotten to the core and empty.

Where We are Going

We’ve looked at who we are according to Jesus – where we come from and what we are like. Now let’s look at what Jesus says about where we are headed. If we look through John 3:16 and following, we see two options. There is either perishing or eternal life; being condemned or being saved; either loving darkness or coming to the light. At the end of John 3, we hear John the baptizer saying this:

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

So there is eternal life or the wrath of God. Lets look at how Jesus describes each of these.

-the wrath of God

-worse than non-existence or maiming or drowning

Jesus says of his betrayer

Matthew 26:24 …woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (cf. Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22)

So according to Jesus, his punishment is worse than non-existence. But is he a special case? In Matthew 5, Jesus deals with the sins of lust and anger.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus feels that it would be better to experience life maimed than to be thrown into hell. In Matthew 18 he uses similar language when he describes the danger of causing a young person to sin. He says

Matthew 18:6 … it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

-eternal fire, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth

And he warns of being ‘thrown into the eternal fire’ (18:8) and ‘into the hell of fire’ (18:9); ‘to hell, to the unquenchable fire (Mk.9:43). He describes hell as a place ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mk.9:48). He describes a tree that does not bear good fruit being cut down and thrown into the fire (Mt.7:19). He speaks of tasteless salt being thrown out and trampled under people’s feet (Mt.5:13). Six times he describes it as a place where ‘there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Mt.8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). He describes it as ‘the outer darkness (Mt.8:12; 22:13; 25:20), and ‘the fiery furnace (Mt.13:42, 50). He says they

Matthew 24:51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He says it is a place of torment, anguish, and unquenchable thirst (Lk.16:23-25). Much of what Jesus says about condemnation or perishing or the wrath of God is in parables or stories. Jesus is quite graphic and vivid in his description of the horrors of hell.

-the final judgment

Jesus describes the final judgment in Matthew 25:

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. … 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. … 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

According to Jesus, he will separate all people into two categories. There will be separation; ‘depart from me’, they will go into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, it will last as long as the reward for the righteous; ‘eternal punishment’ or ‘eternal life’.

-eternal life

Let’s look for a minute at what Jesus says about the alternative. It is interesting that Jesus is not as graphic and vivid with his description of eternal life.

He describes it as entering into the joy of your Master

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ … 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

It is described as fullness of joy and unquenchable joy.

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (Jn.16:20-24; 17:13)

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

It is described as a satisfying of our deepest longings

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

It is described as incomparable treasure (Mt.13:44-46), a wedding feast (Mt.22:2-4; 25:10), reward (Mt.5:12; 6:4,6,18,20; 10:42; 19:21 ), honor (Mt.24:45-47), ‘inherit[ing] the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Mt.25:34); we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Mt.13:43). It is permanent (Jn.10:28). It is described in terms of fellowship (Mt.8:11).

Most often Jesus describes it as eternal life or simply life.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Eternal life is defined in terms of relationship.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

We will be with Jesus and we will see his glory! Jesus prayed:

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

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

January 23, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 10:21-29; The Darkness of His Absence (Mighty Act #9)

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101121_exodus10_21-29.mp3

11/21 Exodus 10:21-29 The Darkness of his Absence (Mighty Act #9)

We have seen God put his sovereignty and justice and wrath and patience and mercy and redeeming love on display by the mighty acts he performed against Egypt so that future generations might know that he alone is YHWH. He alone is to be worshiped and served. He alone is worthy.

Now we come to the third act in the third cycle of three strikes against Egypt. This is the last of the nine warning blows that God brings against Egypt to display his glory and justice and love. This is the final warning to rebellious unbelieving Pharaoh before God touches his own firstborn son. This is the last act of mercy before God releases his justice on Egypt, as he had promised. Back in 4:22-23

4:22 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.”’

Now God gives his final warning.

Darkness

10:21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”

The ninth blow against Egypt – darkness. We might think, wow, this doesn’t seem so bad. Darkness for three days? The Egyptians might feel like things are getting better. After their water supply – the life of Egypt – turned to blood, after the frog infestation and the heaps of rotting carcasses heaped up all over Egypt, after the lice or mosquito infestation and swarms of biting flies, after the death of all their livestock, after the painful boils on their own flesh, after the hail that shattered trees and killed man and beast, after the locust that wiped out the remainder of their crops, we might be inclined to feel that darkness for three days would be almost a blessing. Darkness might be a welcome relief. This, however, is not the case. Let’s look at the significance, the meaning, of the darkness.

Judgment on the gods of Egypt

We have seen in several of the mighty acts of God a direct correlation between what God did and one of the many gods the Egyptians worshiped. In fact, in Exodus 12:12 God says specifically:

12:12 …and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. (cf. Numbers 33:4)

God is executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt. Darkness would be a blatant attack on the Egyptian sun god known by various names, like ‘Amon or Re’. A section from the book of the dead, an ancient Egyptian text, reads like this:

I am he among the gods that cannot be repulsed. Who is he? He is Atum, who is in his sun disc.” or “he is Re, when he arises on the eastern horizon of heaven.” (Durham, p.142 citing ANET, 4)

In the Egyptian worldview, each day Re was thought to travel the celestial sea in his boat, then descend into the nether world where he defeated Apophis, the serpent of chaos, to arise victorious every morning.(Longman, p.109) For the world to plunge into darkness would mean that Re had been defeated.

This would strike personally against the Pharaoh, because Egyptian kings were sometimes referred to as ‘sons of Re’

So one way to understand the supernatural darkness is a blatant attack by the one who made the sun and moon and stars on the inferior gods of Egypt. Let’s look at the darkness from another angle.

Undoing of Creation

Progressively in these blows against Egypt, God has been undoing his mighty acts of creation. He has disrupted the natural order of his design to bring chaos to the land. Water, the basic substance that gives life, was turned to death. Instead of being a vital part of the food chain, frogs and insects were turned against man to wage a maddening war. Livestock, given to man to rule over and to use for food and for farming, were now taken away. Even people, created in the image of God, were scarred and disfigured by painful debilitating boils. Precipitation, an expression of God’s blessing to nourish the earth, is unleashed to crush and destroy. Now, God’s primary creative act is undone.

Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

The implications of this removal of light are staggering. Without the light of the sun, photosynthesis can’t happen. Plants cannot grow. Now, not only has Egypt been stripped of all their crops and animals, but any future hope of rebuilding agriculture is gone. This was paralyzing, immobilizing darkness. Being afraid of the dark is normal and healthy. If you run around when you can’t see anything, you’re going to get hurt. This was utter darkness, total absence of light, where you literally had to grope to feel your way around. Apparently, this was impenetrable unrelenting darkness, so that the Egyptians couldn’t even light a lamp. This would be an oppressive suffocating supernatural darkness. Clearly it was supernatural, because the Israelites had light where they lived. God again makes a distinction between his people and the rebellious Egyptians. This is a withdrawal of God’s common grace. Jesus says:

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Common grace is a term we use to describe the good gifts that God pours out on both his friends and his enemies – gifts like the sun and the rain or as Paul puts it ‘he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything’ (Acts 17:25). These things are common to everyone, unlike salvation which is given only to those who believe, and these gifts are grace because they are undeserved. Here God withdraws even his common grace as a sign of his judgment. This leads us to another way to view the darkness.

God Withdraws His Favor

Darkness in the bible is a sign of the judgment of God. The expression used here could be translated ‘darkness of calamity’. It is used in reference to the great and terrible day of the LORD.

Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. …31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

Zephaniah 1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. 15 A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, …17 I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

Isaiah 8:22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

Darkness is associated with the judgment of God, usually cataclysmic apocalyptic end of the world, God pouring out his righteous wrath on rebellious mankind kind of judgment. That is what is so alarming about the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus our Wrath-absorbing Substitute

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (cf. Matthew 27:45-46)

For three hours, while the Son of God hung suspended between heaven and earth, this kind of darkness covered the land. The darkness of divine judgment enveloped the sinless lamb of God. At the end of that time, Jesus cried out. He cried out with a loud voice. He said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Gone was the familiar intimate address ‘Father’. In its place the cry of one who was experiencing abandonment by the creator of the universe. The darkness of divine displeasure in judgment had fallen over the only begotten Son of God, and he named himself ‘forsaken’. How can this be? Why, the sinless One, abandoned under the crushing weight of holy wrath toward sin?

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus experienced for us the darkness of divine displeasure. Why is darkness the manifestation of God’s judgment?

1 John 1:5 … God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Psalm 18:28 For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.

Psalm 118:27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. …

Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Here we see that God is light. God is the one who lightens my darkness. He causes his light to shine on us. His light is the shining of his face in grace toward undeserving sinners. The good news is that we can be taken out of the darkness of God’s judgment and into the light of his undeserved favor. Paul was sent with the gospel:

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

John who baptized was sent to:

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

The sunrise of the tender mercy of God gives light to undeserving spiritually blind and dead sinners. John, of course, was pointing to Jesus. Jesus himself said:

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (cf. John 1:9; 3:19; 9:5; 12:46)

We see in coming kingdom, that Jesus will be our light.

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

I wonder, when the Israelites had light in their dwellings, if it was the supernatural light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Back to Egypt

10:21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”

Pharaoh attempts to make one final deal. He has offered to allow the Hebrews to worship their God in the land, (8:25) then he offered to allow them to go, but not very far away (8:28). He attempted to limit who will be released to the men only (10:10-11). Now he agrees to allow even the children to go, but he requires that they go empty-handed. This of course is unacceptable. The purpose of the exodus is worship. They must give their best to the LORD, not to Pharaoh. Not a hoof shall be left behind. Yes, worship is a family affair, but worship is also a costly affair. David articulated well this principle that genuine worship will personally cost you something.

1 Chronicles 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (cf. 2 Samuel 24:24)

Giving leftovers and freebies to the LORD is offensive to him. If we have truly experienced the joy of God’s undeserved favor shining on us, we will naturally want to, in fact we will insist on demonstrating the surpassing worth of our great Savior by giving him our best.

Again the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not cooperate with the demands. This time Pharaoh ends the encounter with a death threat. Moses is not to see his face again alive. This yet another set-up for the poetic justice that will follow. Moses will indeed see the Pharaoh’s face again, but it will not be Moses that dies as a result. The people will be released to worship, but it will not be Pharaoh’s doing. It will not be Moses’ doing. It will not be a mass uprising of the populace. God himself will do what he promised. Only God can bring light into the darkness in the shadow of death and bring life and joy and glad wholehearted worship.

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

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 10:1-20

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

God’s Good Purpose in Hardening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divine Show and Tell – Teach Your Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s pick up in verse 3:

The Wages of Sin

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

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

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

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

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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