Deceived by Pride

Obadiah 1:1-4

Years ago, about 30, marketing slogan has since become cliche: “Inquiring minds want to know”. To a point, good attitude to have – discernment requires seeing beyond surface, basing decisions on facts rather than feelings. Can go too far with it, though – becomes prying… into areas / things everybody does not need to know. God even said something about that: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29) Applies particularly to spiritual things, related to what what God revealed in his Word.

When considering portion of Scripture, want to satisfy curiosity – know the who, what, when, where, why relating to text and original setting. Laboring to satisfy curiosity about Obadiah yields little for results, at times more questions than answers. For example, much in common between Obadiah 1:1‐4 and Jeremiah 49:14‐16, Obadiah 1:5‐9 and Jeremiah 49:7‐11. Not possible at this point to determine reason for similarity: Obadiah borrowed from Jeremiah, other way round, both borrowed from third source perhaps God himself.

Not only no definite indications in Obadiah as to time / circumstances of writing, is also much uncertainty about author himself. According to ISBE, total of 13 different men by same name referenced in OT. Brief article closes with: “The name Obadiah was common in Israel from the days of David to the close of the Old Testament.” You think?!? So where does that leave us? Focusing on what the text itself says: a warning against enemies of God and his people in all places and times.

We do know this about writer: name means “servant of Yah”. Obadiah acted in that capacity for sure – at most all of v.1 came from him, remainder (as he said) what Lord GOD said. Obadiah simply the human instrument faithfully communicating God’s word to the world. One more thing we know: Lord GOD – adonai YHWH – overwhelming usage (90%+) in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos.

The combination Adonai Yahweh appears 310 times in the Bible, mostly in the prophetic literature, where the prophets often begin their speeches by saying, “Thus says Adonai Yahweh.”” Bernhard Lang

Is how Obadiah begins record of his vision, declaring what follows is from self-existent sovereign Lord of all things who has power and authority to carry out his purpose. So let’s look at the who, what, where in relation to prophecy concerning Edom, how relates to today’s reader.

A. who

Edomites – descendants of Esau

three events display Esau’s funadmental nature related to birthright (Gen. 25:29-34) and blessing (Gen. 27 & 28)

carnal – satisfying physical appetite and at same time despising something of immense spiritual value and avoiding responsibility – iow, profane or ungodly (Heb. 12:16)

vengeful – hated Jacob, premeditated death of brother as soon as Isaac got with program and died – barely restrained anger, holding grudge, loyalty only to self

vindictive/spiteful – when “Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac”, he took one “to be his wife in addition to the wives he had” (Gen. 28:6-8)

followed Esau’s trajectory – despising God and his people

refused to let children of Israel pass through on way to Canaan (Num. 20:14-21), mustered powerful army to threaten

never friendly relations during entire Biblical record including NT period: family of Herod from Idumean origin

Esau fought with brother even before birth, enough to frighten Rebekah; continued through generations of descendants

lived by sword, would die by sword also

declared by Isaac as part of “blessing” given to Esau – harsh people living harsh life in harsh environment

frequent conflict – at times self-governing, other times subject to other governments including Israel

Israel explicitly commanded not to maintain grudge against Edom because of close family ties (Deut. 23:7)

B. what

battle, war against Edomites by the nations

warning from God to (not “concerning”) Edom – putting Edom on notice dreadful calamity is coming… as result of God at work on behalf of his people

spoken “in hearing” of God’s people… on purpose – encourage them that God not unaware of the problem, can be counted on to deal with enemies that threaten his people

no matter what looks like “on the ground”, ultimate planner behind upcoming warfare will be God himself who sent messenger

which nations not identified that God will incite against Edom – truth is, doesn’t matter… God is one who ensures outcome according to his sovereign plan

important note: God can use any instrument to do his bidding whether “Christian” or “pagan” – many times all God does is take away restraint so they follow natural inclinations

result – thorough humiliation… at least

was a time… few presidents ago, cool and popular to be patriotic – excited about status and reputation of one nation among rest, perhaps for good reason

is more prominent in some places than others: “tour guide” at Baikal Museum took great pains to let visitors know BM’s superiority esp. to US in scientific research

God here promises to take away any cause for pride among Edomites – would be made to look small, therefore vulnerable

will be looked down on by neighbor nations, discounted as insignificant, complete loss of prestige and influence

because of pride

Ted Turner crowing after promising $1 bil. gift to the United Nations, “If only I had a little humility, I’d be perfect” – Edom in similar boat

repeatedly Bible reminds: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” – is especially true when proud insist on making trouble for God’s people

good to remember: God has not changed – is still committed to doing what is best for his people in all ages and circumstances

C. where

secure habitation

Edom situated on high plateau south of Dead Sea more than mile above sea level – literally looked down on all her neighbors

homes, places of business cut into soft sandstone cliffs – access restricted by narrow passes that could be easily defended with few men

to all appearances were absolutely secure from outside attack – stark contrast from particularly Judah, vulnerable on all sides

object of their trust

truly not even something real – Edom had no great military conquests or other achievements of note for which to be proud

confidence was in their location and its perceived security – if anyone ever foolish enough to attack, they could certainly prevail

did not believe they could ever be defeated or humiliated – expected obvious answer to question, v.3: who will bring me down? duh, no one

deceived by pride

pride (over-inflated view of self) and presumption (unwarranted arrogance) deceived them into believing what was not true

thought of themselves and their circumstances more highly/confidently than they ought because comparing against wrong standard – were looking all around, looking down, never looked up

important reminder for us, clear warning for enemies – is “the fool who says in his heart there is no God”, does all his calculations without factoring in God

is a guaranteed outcome of this kind of pride – why so? once proper view of God enters picture, pride and arrogance evaporates

D. how

God will do this

remember who is speaking: Adonai Yahweh, Sovereign Lord – have heard report from Yahweh, Yahweh who says what he will do to humiliate Edom

opposing nations will be force Edomites see and engage, their true enemy is God – as enemy of his people, God takes it personally… one aspect of union with Christ

something heathen should consider when they persecute Christians… but they won’t, for same reasons God would punish Edom: pride and presumption

for whom?

“The book is a case study of Ge 12:1–3, with two interrelated themes: (1) the judgment of Edom by God for treatment of Israel; (2) restoration of God’s people, including the territory of the Edomites.” John MacArthur

important for people of God to keep firmly in mind: this sort of situation what is in view when Paul wrote: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”Rom. 8:28NASB

absolutely everything that takes place anywhere in universe has 2 purposes in view: glory of God, good of God’s people

warning to the proud

God obviously had a few things in mind when showed this vision to Obadiah – intended Edomites should hear his warning of coming inevitable judgment

since God made sure to put in his word the Bible, intending it to be ongoing witness to proud in every generation

keep in mind: God always shows mercy to the truly repentant – if warning brings about change of course, God will withhold judgment

comfort to the humble

just as God looked after his people in Obadiah’s day, still looks after his children today – God will use his choice of instruments to punish his and his people’s enemies

if we are to be genuinely comforted, gotta make sure of some things:

1. our trust must have right object – God and nothing else; true regarding all of life, not just parts

2. must have proper self-image, is what it means to be humble – “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” Rom. 12:3

3. if God is our hiding place, the one we trust in for all things, we can face any circumstance with confidence… in God

What if…?

Exodus 4:1-9

Sometimes can be fun little exercise to think about possibilities – what if we went that way? …tried this approach? …use this ingredient instead of that? Beside being entertaining, can also be useful approach to problem-solving. What if we do this first instead of that? List of possibilities can be endless, and under right circumstances, a harmless diversion or at times positive benefit.

At other times and in different circumstances, playing the “what if” game can get child of God into serious trouble. What if stock market crashes again? …Person A instead of Person B gets elected? Maybe your habit to pray at bedtime: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; and if I die before I wake… wait, what? If that happens, what about…?” Before long, end up way out on small limb, a not good place to be.

Yet what does Moses do? Asks God a “what if” question. Remember where Moses is – there with sandals off, next to bush on fire but not being consumed. Hears a voice, cannot see who is speaking, is told who it is he’s talking to… God. Pretty far along in conversation by now; in fact, is one of the longest conversations God ever had with any mortal human since the Fall. Moses keeps it going, asks God question most everyone asks at some time in life; God graciously responds to Moses; and with God’s help will gain some insight on what God was communicating about himself to Moses.

A. a frequent question v.1

Moses question: “What if they don’t believe me? What if they don’t listen to me?” – next logical question would be “what am I supposed to do then?”

reasonable question, you might think – planning ahead, if it goes well then… if not then… – good to be prepared either way

long silence

when last time God even spoke audibly to person – several centuries! – to one from oldest generation who resettled in Egypt

not an everyday occurrence, definitely extraordinary to see visible manifestation of God himself – only select few ever experienced that, and they didn’t brag about it

for a time, was going to change – for next 40 years God would say a lot, be seen a lot by his people – modern world so accustomed to special effects, hard for us to even imagine live special fx of God

easy for children of Israel, thoroughly immersed in idolatrous Egyptian culture to wonder why God would speak right then

those who retained knowledge of ancient promises made to Abraham 700 years earlier would have some idea what God was doing

natural skepticism

not clear how much Hebrew people knew about Moses… if anything at all – especially true given circumstances of his leaving Egypt

Moses had no status within Jewish community, whatever status he had in Egyptian culture long gone, esp. coming back as most despised sheepherder

no obvious reason from human perspective why God would choose to reveal himself to Moses, appoint him to leadership role

would not be surprise when Moses appears back from desert, starts to act as leader, if people questioned his credentials / authority

previous experience

I’m sure Moses probably having flashbacks about now – had tried the leadership thing before, total flop, put him on the run

his countrymen questioned his authority, his method, perhaps even motives – certainly not response to give great confidence

what’s missing

seems to be reasonable questions, seeking reassurance that this time would be different, some indication of success

but wait: what has God just told Moses – read Ex. 3:16-18 – keep in mind, was God himself speaking, face-to-face with Moses

for Moses to ask “what if” of God… we can’t hear tone of voice, so give benefit of doubt, not whining – means God’s personal word to Moses not enough!

at this point in Moses’ career does not have faith that God meant what he just said – pretty rude / inconsiderate to God

how often do we act same way? God moving us in particular direction, we ask the “what if’s”, don’t believe what God said is true

don’t be too hard on Moses… now, or later on in his role as God’s appointed leader – all guilty of sin of unbelief… when question God, when fret and worry

B. God’s answer

not like ours

if God dealt with children like we often do, would have asked Moses “what did I just tell you? Aren’t you listening to me? Don’t you believe me?”

we get easily frustrated, especially with hard of hearing children! …and we give God reason to be frustrated with us who are hard of hearing

yet God patiently, graciously, lovingly saw this as teachable moment for Moses – demonstrates what God can accomplish even with reluctant servant

and see how God treats Moses – keeps him engaged in conversation by asking question, not shutting him down

first sign v.2-5

what’s in your hand… a rod – precisely so: wasn’t a magic stick, simply the shepherd’s staff his primary tool as herdsman for Jethro

cast on ground… became serpent… Moses (like many of you) ran from it – probably had encountered numerous snakes during 40 years in desert, didn’t intend to be a hero

reach out… catch the snake… by the tail – about the last thing to do with real venomous snake… absolutely vulnerable when you’re holding one end, poison is at the other end

safest way to handle snake – grasp close behind head, not tail; but this real but not just any snake – under authority of God, became harmless rod in Moses’ hand

God assures Moses this dramatic sign will be persuasive – demonstrate to Hebrew children that Moses really saw God, sent by him

second sign v.6-8

put your hand inside your robe… now look at it… covered with leprosy – Moses couldn’t run away from his hand like he did snake

do it again… now look… restored just like his other hand – same kind of sovereign authority God showed over piece of wood has power over rational creature

not Moses who has the power, is God’s power working through Moses to perform signs and wonders – rod in Moses’ hand merely visible means God was pleased to use to bring about his divine purpose

second assurance from God – if any unpersuaded by first sign, second sign would persuade them… perhaps hinting Moses ought to be persuaded by now!

third sign v.9

this one promised but not demonstrated like first two – required river water for its operation, and would achieve what other two signs might not

also precursor of what would happen to entire river if Pharaoh did not heed God’s “request” for his people

no explicit promise that would be effective in persuading Jewish people but strongly implied, and would be certain because God would make it so

C. what’s the point?

–remember: God had multiple “audiences” in view when giving signs to Moses – Moses himself, children of Israel, subsequent generations of God’s people in all the world

God is greater than Egypt

serpent symbol common throughout Egyptian culture and worship – was part of Pharaoh’s crown, symbol of his prestige and power

represented national god of lower Egypt, pictures and symbols of cobra nearly everywhere you looked in Egypt, “snake swallowing its tail a symbol of …eternity, an endless cycle of beginnings and endings.”

God greater than all that was represented by serpent, including Pharaoh… most powerful ruler in world of Moses’ day

God will use whoever he chooses

whether Moses already knew or not, he experiences God’s power and authority over him personally – instantly contracting incurable disease, just as quickly being totally healed from it

God would by means of the rod exercise his power to do incredible things… but only in the hand of Moses – both together made up God’s instrument

God is the sole source of life

God, not Nile River the source of life; means God is also sustainer and director of life… throughout all his creation

notice, too, God left some for Moses to take on faith… that when he took some Nile water and poured as God instructed, would actually change to blood

God today still more powerful than any opposing force, inclcuding Satan and all his allies. God has purpose for those he calls, provides everything necessary to carry out his calling. And God ultimately has power of life and death, seen by God numbering our days (Job 14:5) – no one dies early or late according to God’s plan. Don’t need to look anywhere else for provision or protection than God – in fact, for Christian to do so is to sin against God.

Don’t need to know answer to our what if’s, don’t need to know what tomorrow will bring. Only need to know that Lord Jesus is sufficient – for all our needs, for all our days, for all our circumstances.

I AM Who I AM

Exodus 3:13-22

Few years back was popular for people, especially political figures, to declare with no hesitation: Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Guess that was supposed to make everyone feel better, like good Muslims and Christians all on same part of theological reservation. You’ve all probably heard at least once or twice: well, I like to think of God this way”. And then the old stand-by – all roads lead to heaven, they just go by different names. At the risk of oversimplifying, baloney! I believe text we just read bears that out.

Moses just received marching orders – go to Pharaoh, lead children of Israel out of Egypt, worship at Sinai. Bear in mind, Moses would be going back into culture where short list of gods numbered nearly 100, each with different name. Not a lot different from places today. In fact saw new book being promoted on Amazon few days ago – “One Heart, Many Gods: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Devotional Polytheism”. Not surprising to get asked “which god?”

Exodus a good reminder that God of Bible defines who he is for our understanding and worship. God declares what he is like, not leaving it for his creatures to make up. God demonstrates toward both friends and enemies who he is and what he is like.

A. God defines v.13-15 God of Life

main character of story

practice for last 100 years – teach stories from OT… centered on people: Adam/Eve; Cain/Abel; Noah/Flood; Jacob/Esau, etc.

significant people, of course… names are in Bible – minimizes, if not overlooks, introduction to OT – in the beginning God

what follows in 66 books – first and foremost… the story of the “God who is”, not “who came into being”, but “who is”

Bible is God’s word that reveals God to us – God telling his story, telling who he is, what he has done/is doing, and what he expects his people to do and be

God seen more readily in some portions of his story, be assured he is present in all of it whether visibly or not

what he is called

Moses started with “here am I’, pretty quickly backed off to “who am I”, then side-stepped to “who are you”

not only asking for right name to call God by, remember “name” in OT thought intimately connected with character

who is this God in relation to their circumstances – what about his nature and character would encourage and help now

response: “I AM”, God who simply is – as he is, so he was, so he will be – Yahweh, self-existent, eternal, unchanging

what he is like… no other

Yahweh alone source of all life – could not have had beginning, who/what gave him life? life only comes from life, spontaneous generation debunked years ago

since Yahweh alone is eternal, does not need to consult with anyone about plans/actions – no opinion polls, listener surveys, referendum questions

nothing else simply is – everything apart from God constantly changing, becoming something other than what was yesterday

while all else changes, God will be God doing what God alone purposes regardless of any other object, person, force

Rom. 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Yahweh present in all generations, relevant to all generations, only source of hope and life for all generations

don’t need to come up with new strategy to market God and Gospel – just do as God says, he knows what he is doing

many people “I like to think of God…” – God not subject to or defined by man’s opinion; what’s important: what Bible says

B. God declares v.16-18 God of Promise

what he has seen

Gen. 50:24-25 Joseph, 2x declared “God will surely visit you” – God reminding Moses/Hebrew children: prophecy made by Joseph in process of being fulfilled

God in process of actively intervening in events taking place in Egypt – people had no clue, could not see God moving

all-powerful unchanging God is also everywhere present and all-knowing – God knew far more about circumstances than people in them did… true today for each of you, your individual situation

had they taken time to do the math, people should have been looking for God to move – Gen. 15:13-14 “Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.“And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

most important things not what children of Israel could see, how they felt – #1 thing for them and us: what has God said

our senses can be easily tricked, sometimes do it to ourselves – must stay firmly rooted in God and his truth recorded for us

what he has promised

remember who is promising here: God who is, God of their ancestors, God of the patriarchs who made large promises to them

God declaring his own ongoing commitment to what he promised – not forgotten, postponed, superseded by something else

has promised first to deliver from present affliction, from under thumb of dynasty loyal to Satan and those who worshiped demons (1 Cor. 10:20)

also promised to establish his people in land occupied and defended by those people – everyone knew only way that could happen is if God fought the battle

notice what God does not promise: freedom from effort, opposition, testing, temptation – does promise his presence, provision

what they will do

apparently already a leadership structure present among Jewish community – “gather the elders of Israel together”

elders = elderly, members of oldest generation alive, respected by everyone else for their wisdom and experience, actually Moses’ peers now :-)

God prepared Moses for response to his leadership – when Moses tried on his own, total failure; God assures will be different

why different? because God said so! – God would do all things necessary to carry out his purpose, including causing elders to listen to and heed Moses as God’s mouthpiece

Moses effectiveness as leader of his people dependent first on God’s appointing, second on God’s equipping of his servant, third on God’s preparing and motivating of the followers

see the pattern? who is the primary doer? – God who is absolute sovereign over all his creation the One moving his eternal plan forward through human agents

what Pharaoh is to do

yes, Moses to be the one who would speak God’s words, who would be at head of the line with elders and people behind him

important detail: Moses not a Lone Ranger – obviously is God’s instrument, and… supported by the elders also

request made of Pharaoh – let us go on 3-day journey so we can worship our God – how’s that for “in your face”?

clear from the outset – Yahweh Elohim of the Hebrews distinct from all gods of Egyptian pantheon, and yes, he outranks Pharaoh

key point right here – the oppressor of God’s people being asked to release them for purpose of worship; not vacation, not resettlement or better wages/lifestyle, but to worship the true God

sadly priorities of typical man, woman, boy, girl not same as God’s – too often satisfying personal desires comes before satisfying God’s commands

even more today since new covenant believers have it so much better than old covenant believers – better hope, High Priest, sacrifice, promises

C. God demonstrates v.19-22 God of Power

sovereignty in foreknowledge and foreordination

like Isaiah generations later, God prepares Moses for appearance of failure – God knows how Pharaoh will respond to request

God knows the outcome because God ordained it from the beginning – it is really God’s program, like to think it’s ours

God also makes clear no power short of God’s power will be adequate to deliver his people from Pharaoh… because God has planned it that way

in faithfulness and providence

God will also remain faithful to his people and his program – Hebrew children will actually be delivered by God, not destroyed by Pharaoh

through it all, God will provide for both short-term and long range needs of people – yes, people to remember how were mistreated

at same time, must remember how God took care of them – poverty-stricken oppressed slaves leaving slavery with all they needed… would not leave empty-handed

see reason – Ex. 9:16 – for the sake of self-revelation and Gospel

God had purpose in all of this, that encompasses all of humanity – intended to demonstrate his power, superior to every other power

40 years later Rahab – Josh. 2:10 ​”For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt” – expected response: worship, yes by the heathen

God did not intend to rely solely on nature/natural revelation for people to know about him – intended his Name be declared in all the earth

Notice how God repeats himself – v.17 “I have said I will bring you …to a land flowing with milk and honey.” Emphasizes fact of his promise, intent to keep promise to bring people to destination. Not send but bring. God treats his children same today – leading, present with them, bringing us to eternal land of promise. Just like Hebrew children we can count on God’s gracious presence and provision every step of way.

 

A Bright Future

Amos 9:11-15

Anyone familiar with Bible as whole would certainly agree that some portions of it easier to grasp than others. Some are even downright difficult – either to understand their meaning and/or proper application. So we don’t get into a hermeneutical swamp, interpreting texts in haphazard way, is vitally important to have sound starting principles of interpretation with respect to the Bible. Here a couple to help get started:

“The “analogy of Scripture” …emphasizes more explicitly that Scripture is consistent with itself and thus does not contain contradictions. Because of this consistency, obscure passages are to be interpreted by other clear and parallel passages in the Scriptures.” H. Wayne Johnson

“It is of the greatest importance to understand at the outset that Scripture has but a single sense, and is therefore susceptible to a scientific and logical investigation. This fundamental principle must be placed emphatically in the foreground, in opposition to the tendency, revealed in history and persisting in some quarters even up to the present time, to accept a manifold sense,- a tendency that makes any science of Hermeneutics impossible, and opens wide the door for all kinds of arbitrary interpretations.” Louis Berkhof

Now bear in mind, may be innumerable applications of a particular text, although only one correct interpretation. That correct interpretation corresponds with what God Holy Spirit intended to communicate. Is especially helpful when the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of a prophecy later in Scripture inspires the writing of its interpretation. Is true for part of present text. More on that in few minutes.

One commentator has said:

“The funeral dirge is turned into a song of mercy. The prophet is rewarded for faithful service and is comforted with the thought, that after the destruction of ungodly elements, Divine grace shall rear, enlarge and prosper a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.” James Wolfendale

Incredible promises made personally by God himself! What he intends to do at some point in future, making plain he had not nor would he abandon his people indefinitely. Also important to keep in mind: God’s promises all have more than this world / this age in view.

A. I will raise up v.11

the tabernacle/booth of David

not referring to “tabernacle” David erected for Ark of Covenant for its return to Jerusalem – 2 Sam. 6:17

is referring to “house” God promised to build for David – read2 Sam. 7:11-16

at time of Amos, David’s houise in total disarray – needed more than redecorating, renovating… needed total rebuild – prophet reminding people God’s promise still in force

on a better foundation

David built his house on loyalty to God, quality largely lost in generations that followed him; would need to be redone from ground up in order to endure

abundantly clear from history that any man-engineered dynasty eventually crumbles – enduring dynasty requires God establishing foundation and building on it

with better walls

breaches need to be repaired… for protection of inhabitants from assaults of the enemy, #1 being Satan and his agents

like foundation, walls need to be raised up in such a way as to last forever – God doesn’t build things with limited lifetime

and restored materials

materials had been damaged, knocked out of place, rendered useless – God excels at restoring things to better than new

materials are of far better quality, greater usefulness – since he promised house and kingdom established forever, can’t use same old things to build it with

B. I will rebuild v.12

on “international” scale

will include near neighbors – Edomites, descended from Israel’s brother Esau – and all surrounding nations: πάντα τα έθνη

newly rebuilt booth of David much larger than old booth – stretches far beyond Israel’s geographic and cultural/religious borders

that is inclusive

those from “all the nations” who belong to God – not just ethnic or religious Jews who stand under protection of David’s booth

includes people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation redeemed to God by blood of Christ and made kingdom of kings and priests to glory of God

and ongoing – see Acts 15:14-18

we know this to be true… because Bible interprets itself – read apostle James’ conclusion given at Jerusalem Council

for beginning years of God’s people, largely limited to one people group – not replaced by another people group but added to: raise up rebuild, repair but no hint of replace

absolutely essential component of foundation in restored booth – “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.” Psa. 118:22

is eternal self-existent YHWH doing this

no room for boasting – is God through Christ who does the building: no mortal man can ever fashion anything eternal

regardless of what man might build that looks like Christ’s kingdom, is only the one he builds that counts, endures

C. I will bring back v.14

my people from captivity

God’s people from Adam to last saint without exception in captivity, powerless to extricate themselves… if even desired to

God does two things – gives people new desires, incl. desire for him, and releases from captivity in sin so can act on desires

in fulfillment of my word through Isaiah – see Isa. 61:1-2a; Luke 4:17-20

God promised, Jesus claimed fulfillment – “proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison” – occurs each time sinner made alive

God will continue releasing captives until “the day of vengeance of our God” comes – continuously building booth until complete

and make them productive

chain gang gets some work accomplished, never as much as free people with a mind/heart to work – cf. Neh. 6:15, 52 days

build and live, plant and drink, grow and eat – can / does happen to some extent now… but only in limited ways

D. I will plant v.15

on their own land

not on foreign soil, on their own land promised to them – no, not at far end of Mediterranean, promises are way too big for that

land that God has given to them for which Canaan only a down-payment – has real, eternal Paradise in view, new universe

never again uprooted

God guarantees will never be pulled up from that land – that obviously has not happened yet where we can see it

iow, an eternal planting

time and place where future not in doubt – security and productivity guaranteed by God, no possibility of interference by anyone

E. great blessing v.13

in a land of mind-blowing productivity

land and plants trying to outdo themselves – grow and produce so rapidly not enough time to harvest before time for next planting

ground itself overflowing with goodness, nothing remaining to retard or reduce productivity – all things functioning in top form as designed by Creator-God

like the valley of Eschol – Numbers 13:23, 27

two men carrying one cluster of grapes on pole, land overflowing with richness, luxuriant growth not before seen by Israelites

yet more so

because the Curse is removed – nothing hinders productivity of either God’s people or the place they inhabit – creation cooperates willingly with their labors

this kind of character applies to life in next age in every respect, blessing and productivity not limited to agriculture but extending to all aspects of eternal existence

“The importance of these principles is illustrated in the prophecy of Amos regarding “raising up the tabernacle of David” (Amos 9:11-12). Written prior to the Assyrian invasion of 722 BC, Amos describes a glorious Israel inhabiting a land of supernatural fruitfulness and ruling over elect Gentiles from around the world. Reading this prophecy without any further clues might lead one to imagine a future theocratic kingdom of Israel, replete with a temple, priestly service, and a king ruling the nations.

However, as the NT church began to grow, James declared to the council meeting in Jerusalem that the flood of Gentiles coming to faith was in fact the fulfillment of Amos’s prophecy (Acts 15:12-17). David’s raised tabernacle is nothing less that the NT Kingdom of God comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles.” David Daniels

Christ is building his church but not with ultimate conclusion in this age – is building it for time of future complete redemption, eternal existence in new heaven and new earth. God himself has declared what he is doing and he is working on a timetable. We don’t know precisely where we are on timeline; we do know end of this age is coming. Must do our part now to help others prepare for then.

The fact that God is raising up, rebuilding, restoring is what gives confidence to his people. Means that when we faithfully declare truth, results are up to God. We know from his word that he will use faithful children living and speaking what is pleasing to him to bring about his good purpose. May mean getting outside comfort zone… just like Moses. Like him, have assurance that God goes with his people, guides their steps, makes their labors productive in building his kingdom. And he has an unimaginably glorious future in store for all his people.

 

Holy Ground

Exodus 3:1-12

61 years ago last month, Jim Elliot along with 4 other men gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel on a sandbar in the Curaray River in Ecuador. Before he left the US for Ecuador, said this in 1949:

“I am dwelling in a generation to whom nothing is holy. Sacredness is an aspect people never assume toward anything. They revel in bald frankness which enervates (significantly weakens) moral consciousness.”

Imagine what Jim Elliot would say about today’s culture… that by word and deed ridicules even the idea of holy in regard to Chrstianity. Should not surprise those who know their Bible, told to expect such as end of this age approaches. Keep this firmly in mind: the world, the American culture does not define reality. The God we love and worship defines what is real, what is true, what has value and significance. Has graciously given guiding principles in his word the Bible, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

This portion of God’s self-revelation one of top 10 in importance for sure – transcendent self-existent creator-God stoops to converse with Moses as friend with friend. In process, reveals truths Jesus used to declare his deity, set the stage for not simply delivering people from slavery in Egypt. What fills out rest of Exodus a huge step in God’s work of redemption and special revelation. In these few verses Moses meets God in way he never had before. Moses hears God speak and he responds. Moses sees God’s heart for his people and Moses dares to ask questions of God. In so doing, finds out he’s not center of attention, God is.

A. Moses meets God v.1-3

what he was doing

how the mighty has fallen – from Pharaoh’s home, not just his court, all the way to sheepherder; nothing lower on social scale in Egypt

for most of 40 years, tending father-in-law’s flocks – essential part of his God-appointed training: learning how to be servant-leader rather than driver

was also ideal opportunity to learn his way around area where children of Israel would hang out for another 40 years – safe roads, oases, basic outdoor living skilils never learned in palace or university

what he saw

approached Horeb, mountain of God, aka Mount Sinai, apparently place of pasturage for flock he was leading

saw bush on fire, not all that unusual in that climate; what was startling – fire kept burning with no effect on the bush

Moses’ attention on the bush, was the fire that was important – just any old ordinary thorn bush, far from any ordinary fire

Moses’ perspective gets changed quickly… but how like us – see something out of ordinary, focus on the what, not the who – God has to focus our attention on what is truly significant

who it was

not just any angel, this one a particular angel… of the Lord – Moses not seeing what he thought he saw, was a theophany… visible manifestation of God

was God who called from the bush, was the Angel of YHWH who appeared in a flame – who is both God and the Messenger of the Lord who speaks? the Lord Jesus!

this one of those places Jesus could have pointed to on road to Emmaus, told his disciples “that was Me speaking to Moses”

God could be consuming fire, so he promised to be when they came to Canaan – here, did not consume the bush, no guarantees for Moses if he approaches too closely

how he responded

Moses may be 80 years old, has not lost powers of observation – saw something extraordinary, went to satisfy curiosity

important to keep in mind – was what Moses saw that aroused curiosity, altered path of his footsteps; was what Moses heard that changed path of his life

God uses all sorts of things to get our attention, at same time “special effects” display something genuine about God’s character/identity

B. Moses hears God v.4-6

God called

God’s condescension abundantly clear here – was God who stooped down to engage with Moses on his level by sight and hearing

God’s grace also evident – yes, God making first move… but is still God, giving up none of his attributes – is not safe for Moses to get too close; got explanation later in Ex. 33:20

God’s love on display, here as elsewhere in passage – love requires relationship, God showed intent for relationship, calling Moses by name

Moses responded

stopped Moses in his tracks – in middle of nowhere and someone knows his name… and uses it; besides, was God calling

what else could he say? You got the wrong guy? He went the other way? answered honestly and respectfully

now knew for sure might be ordinary bush, was truly extraordinary fire, needed to approach with caution

important note: Moses didn’t find God, wasn’t even looking for God; was God who took initiative, revealed himself, called Moses

God instructed

in fact, God instructed – you’re close enough – before getting any closer, needed to know two things: who and how

how helps to explain who: seems that at this time, Moses may have known some, even a lot, about true God – didn’t know God much if at all, needed further understanding

take off sandals – humbly and reverently as servant to master – is master who establishes proper and expected conduct, still true

place is holy because a holy God is present – God of creation, God of covenant, God of redemption, God who is making himself known visibly and verbally

Moses acted

hid his face, not out of reverence, but like Adam and Eve out of fear – overwhelmed by this glimpse of God’s glory/majesty

beauty and glory of God’s presence made Moses’ sinfulness, unworthiness painfully clear – God revealed not only some of himself, also revealed much to Moses about his own character and condition

C. Moses sees God’s heart v.7-10

God sees and hears and knows

God not getting caught up on news here – all-knowing God who sovereignly governs his creatures and actions has it covered

God saying something else here: reminding/encouraging Moses that God always on task, attentive to his people, sees that in time and space his purpose and people have reached key point

one more thing: since God knows their sufferings and has not yet acted to change them, suffering must have good purpose

God acts

easy to think of Moses as deliverer of children of Israel from Egypt; he did look like Charlton Heston, sort of! – is that what Bible says, though?

look v.8 – because God sees, hears, knows, God explains his presence at the bush – he, God has come down to deliver

God has come down to more than simply deliver, to bring them to appointed / promised destination – not to deliver into hand of more enemies, to establish them in new home

God repeats

restates his awareness of their plight again, emphasizing his compassion toward children of Israel again… in light of covenant promises

again making clear – is acting purposely… according to his plan, in keeping with circumstances he appointed

God sends

God could simply speak his command and Pharaoh would send Hebrew children packing in an instant – God has another purpose

is part of his eternal plan to show his people things they need to know and learn… including us – remember they are examples

God does what he alone must by himself – at other times, suits his purpose to carry out his plan using human instruments

in this case, Moses will be God’s instrument of deliverance – don’t forget, will be God doing the delivering, Moses just the agent

D. Moses questions God v.11-12

“why me?”

haven’t been there in 40 years, no friends, smell like sheep – how can dropout from Pharaoh school lead 1 mil. people anywhere

“you aren’t the important one”

God answers, but not how you’d think – not a list of Moses’ hidden talents, untapped resources he can call on for the task

emphatically, “I will certainly be with you” – when God calls someone to serve him, nothing else matters… something Moses eventually understood

“here is proof”

something both Moses and people needed to grasp: #1 thing is to serve God, to worship God, to depend on God for all things

Just like for Moses and children of Israel, big picture about far more than change of circumstances. Too many chase wrong things – if I only had this, did that, lived there – and are continually frustrated, dissatisfied, discontented. What we need to do is spend time on holy ground, drawing close to God, striving to worship and serve him first.

Not in own strength – was God who delivered, not Moses. For all delivered from slavery in sin, is God’s power at work in redemption and in our service. God’s power, wisdom, strength, direction made available to us only through Son the Lord Jesus. When united to Christ by faith, depend on him 24/7, can do absolutely anything God calls us to do.

What Is the Church?

Nearly 3 years ago I was asked the following question:

“In addition to the nature of Scripture and justification by faith, what do you think is the top theological issue facing churches? Write a brief response to that issue.”

Notice that horrible qualifier about the kind of answer expected: “brief”! All kidding aside, it is a serious issue that has broad implications that literally will be felt around the world. Here is how I answered:

What is the church? A full-orbed answer to that question should cover such issues as: membership and discipline; the primary purpose of the church; methods of evangelism and missions; the nature of biblical worship; the proper role of para-church organizations (e.g., mission boards; Christian schools, colleges and seminaries, evangelistic groups, etc.) It is evident in all sorts of ways. If the purpose of the church is evangelism, then music/message/format/venue will take one form. If the purpose is edification of believers, those things will look much different. An even more fundamental issue is who gets to decide these things; how much latitude does Christ give his church? Confusion with respect to ecclesiology is probably responsible for more conflict and wasted resources than we really want to add up.

A very close second (maybe even a tie) would be God’s design for the family. What is the biblical definition of marriage? What are the roles and responsibilities of each member of a family? These two theological issues are significant for the church in America as well as elsewhere. I am acquainted with pastors in both Ukraine and Siberia; they have asked for help and instruction on both these topics for the good of their churches.

I believe the second issue identified is closely connected to the first issue and often a result of it. Because the church at large has lost its way, the family is close behind. Obviously I speak of the local church as distinct from other uses of the term “church”. 

“…the Lord Jesus, through the ministry of his Word and by his Spirit, calls to himself out of the world those who are given to him by the Father. They are called to walk before him in the ways of obedience which he prescribes for them in his Word. He commands those who are so called to form particular societies or churches” (LBCF)

I know there are different opinions about which hat those who heard the Great Commission the first time were wearing – was it their official apostolic hat or was it their basic disciple of Jesus hat? Or was it some of each? The conduct of 1st century Christians following Stephen’s death sheds some light on this. Acts 8:1 tells us that “a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Then in verse 4 tells us that “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” or “evangelizing”. It seems beyond question that “those who were scattered” did not include the apostles. The obvious conclusion then is that the evangelists in Judea and Samaria were not primarily the apostles but rather the typical members of the Jerusalem church. It was not until after the apostles heard what God was doing in Samaria that they sent Peter and John to check it out. (Acts 8:1-14)

So what’s the big deal? Call them refugees, displaced peoples, or persecuted saints, when they were forced from their homes, they “went everywhere preaching the word”. Driven from their homes and neighborhoods, as they went along their way they made it their business to evangelize all who would listen. Is that the kind of people who fill our congregations on Sunday Morning? Not only were they committed to Christ and his Gospel, they were able communicators of that Gospel. For that to be true, those early Christians must have had a steady diet of sound teaching that went beyond “the elementary principles of Christ, …not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Heb. 6:1-2) This solid teaching beyond milk is surely a significant part of the work of those whom Christ gave to the church: “some apostles, …some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” (Eph. 4:11-12) The apostles certainly equipped their flocks for the work of evangelism at least, and so should pastors and teachers today. The apostles equipped their flocks to endure incredible persecution and so should pastors and teachers today by “leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, [and] go[ing] on to perfection”. (Heb. 6:1)

Pastors, Christ is building his church for his people, his body, not the lost. And Christ expects you to be about the work of equipping the saints and edifying the body of Christ so they can serve Christ well. Yes, you do that by preaching the Gospel. But you must preach “the whole counsel of God” in a systematic, purposeful way so Christ’s body will grow – in knowledge of God and his ways; in ability to apply biblical principles to all of life; in confidence to share the Gospel with the lost; and most of all, in likeness and usefulness to Christ. If you are not presently doing so, get with the program. If that does describe your ministry, praise God and persevere.

Brothers and sisters, if you have a pastor who with God’s help labors to equip and edify his flock, thank God for him. Devote yourself to growing in Christ-likeness and encourage your faithful pastor regularly. If you are not blessed with such a pastor, you need one and sooner rather than later. Begin with the pastor you have; encourage him to put the skim milk away and start serving solid food that will enable you to grow. If he needs help, suggest he read Acts 8, Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 6. If your pastor shows willingness to step up to the challenge, give him all the help and encouragement you can. If you meet with opposition or apathy, find a local church that is striving to practice what I have described above and get growing.

God Remembered His Covenant – Part 2

Exodus 2:23-25

Don’t live in era we read about on pages of God’s word the Bible – times when God moved in large and visible ways. You know, things like catastrophic worldwide flood, fire from heaven that devastates two cities, an all-night wrestling match (take that Hulk Hogan!). We know things different now, and for some good reasons – we have full and sufficient revelation of God on pages of Bible and life of Son, Lord Jesus. Yet we look for, perhaps long for God to act like he did in old days. Also like to think if we pray hard enough, using enough of right words, and long enough, God just has to answer our prayers.

When we don’t see exciting things happening, often think God isn’t working. When we don’t get immediate answers to prayers, wonder if God is even listening. Must remember – in between the big deal moments described for us in Bible, were extended periods of one day after another that all seemed pretty much the same. Must also remember – during what seem to us to be quiet times… God is still moving his eternal plan forward toward the next big thing. In our case, Lord Jesus’ return to gather his people, set all things to rights.

Were similar periods, not as lengthy :-), in history of God’s people, one of them in text this morning. Would seem like a lifetime to us, no word from heaven, yet God providentially preparing people and circumstances for next stage in his work of redemption. Number of things that needed to come together at appointed time, to satisfy conditions of God’s plan – his people and their leader not yet ready; nor were Pharaoh and retinue of advisors prepared to give up their plans; and residents of Canaan had not filled up their cup of iniquity yet (Gen. 15:16). Each day brought all participants closer to time when God would begin to move more visibly. Yet behind the scenes God was fully attentive to needs of his people.

A. the process of time v.23a

lit. “after many days”

Stephen provides more information – Acts 7:30 “And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.”

not just few months, even several years – nearly four decades have passed, one day at a time, little incremental change

reminds us once again: God in no hurry to carry out some details of redemptive purpose – at same time God is busy with other particulars

good time to remember: “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3:8-9

the stuff of daily life

will discover some more details in next few chapters – no dramatic moments, earth-shaking events apparently in Egypt or Midian

Moses went to work each day, laboring for Jethro, learning from Jethro with no “light bulb” moments from God, at least not recorded

same true for his Hebrew brothers back in Egypt but with one significant difference – simply existing more difficult each day

a new chapter

something big happened in Egypt, something life-changing about to happen for Moses (next chapter, next week)

new chapter in redemptive history beginning when God would begin to move / act in more visible ways

made the news in Egypt, apparently not in Midian, “king of Egypt died” – significant as God elaborates further in Ex. 4:19

giving instruction there to Moses, sets his mind at ease – “all the men who were seeking your life are dead.”

neither Moses nor his brethren recognized at the time: Pharaoh’s death a turning point in the action, God’s plan begins advancing in more obvious ways

God’s providence

Pharaoh’s death a secular event with spiritual consequences… according to God’s providence directed toward his people

two important things to note here: God’s providential actions taking place during all of 40 silent year period for both Moses and people

2nd, some important foreshadowing going on as well: young Jesus, taken by parents to Egypt until king who sought his life died, safe to return to Nazareth

is through the events and circumstances of everyday life that God providentially brings about spiritual change in his people

B. the place of prayer v.23b-24a

they groaned

king had died, maybe cause for rejoicing – new king couldn’t be as harsh as old king; um, yes, maybe even more so

demands made of Hebrew children surpassed previous harsh treatment – don’t know specifics, do know would get even worse

God doesn’t tell us who they expected to hear their groans – just says they moaned and groaned because of their slavery

they cried

same about their cry – doesn’t say who they cried out to; given what happened at Sinai, quite likely were crying out to idols

approx. 3 months after leaving Egypt arrived at Sinai – when Moses took too long on mountain, what did they do? golden calf

not something they invented in desert – had seen before, quite likely had participated in idol-worship while in Egypt

says “their cry came up to God”, not “they cried out to God” – were crying to anyone who might stop to listen and help

their cry went up… past the ceiling

they cried out, cry went up and… nothing changed from their perspective – still same oppressive slavery, day after day

nearly every believer has experience – cry out to God, are convinced sound of voice never left the room, never went past ceiling

listen for response, hear nothing, not even echo of own voice – wonder if God is listening… to you; of course he listens to others

their groaning was heard… even though they didn’t know it

groaning, crying out for help, getting no apparent response, yet God heard… and began to act in response

Hebrew children could not see God’s actions, could not hear any response yet God not ignoring them, had not abandoned them

God delaying their deliverance in part so they would have opportunity to learn futility of worshiping false gods – their cry went up and God heard – he is only one with ears to hear his people

C. the priority of covenant v. 24-25

God heard their groaning

would have to be stone deaf not to hear: Eze.30:24 “I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a man mortally wounded.”

was more than background noise to God – he paid attention to their circumstances, was attentive to their need

not simply gathering data to put in his collection – God listened with intention of acting in response; don’t forget, was not new information to God

implied here that God was waiting for certain things – Pharaoh’s life to play out, Hebrew children’s bondage to worsen, their cries for help to get more desperate

when all of details came together according to God’s plan, no sooner, no later he would begin next stage of redemption

God remembered His covenant

here is root cause why God moves plan forward – he has made a covenant that he intends to keep in order to save his people

is not their predicament that spurred God’s compassion – he was already compassionate; not cries for help that got his attention – was already attentive to his people

was not their inherent worth that made God move, not even all wonderful things they could / would do if he delivered them

it was his faithfulness to keep promises of his covenant when people recognized they needed help, his help

God looked upon the children of Israel

he looked on his people with interest and compassion – ultimately Pharaoh’s actions toward Hebrew children was action against God

at same time, God had compassion on them for much more than harsh physical treatment – he saw they were in even greater bondage to sin than to Pharaoh

God’s plan of redemption needed to move forward for their benefit and benefit of every last person Jesus came to save

God understood

lit. “God knew” – God knew their suffering, their circumstances, their sorrow… he understood because of Lord Jesus

Heb. 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

for God to keep his covenant, for Son of God to enter time and space and human form to be our Substitute, had to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt so could deliver them from sin

Centuries later, baby born to couple that had given up trying. No longer believed was possible, would take miracle. And God did just that. Zacharias and Elisabeth had a son named John. Holy Spirit moved Zacharias to declare that God had “raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, …And to remember His holy covenant,The oath which He swore to our father Abraham” (see Luke 1:67-75). Months later the Deliverer himself would be born of a virgin, one more element of covenant made with Abraham.

God does not always bring his people out of their trials. Often he brings them through suffering. Many times what we expect from God is heaven on earth. God knows better… heaven on earth now would never fit us for new heaven and earth. Through it all, God remembers his covenant and his people. Whether we can see God at work or not, whether we hear him speak or not, his Word assures us that no matter what happens he will take care of us.