The Kingdom Is Here, But…

Micah 4:9-5:1

Once through preliminaries, Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry begin with Forerunner, John Baptist, announcing “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. (Matt. 4:17) Jesus continued theme, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15) Instructed his followers to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Then when Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” (Matt. 27:11) So where is it?

Been conditioned to expect instant gratification; impatient with waiting; avoid discomfort whenever possible; strive to be in control. This whole thing with kingdom that is real but can’t really see it, is already in place but not yet in its fullness, still involves hardship and suffering is tough one for God’s people to embrace… in Micah’s day as well as ours!

As we seek to understand God’s word, promises he made to Israel and to us through Christ, must use caution – Israel’s hope never intended to be in earthly kingdom; that one only a faint image of real inheritance. Must be careful not to encourage wrong hope as government policies have done. People “need” place to live, not necessarily an earthly homeland (Matt. 8:20). Must make clear: hope for anyone, including Jews, found only in Christ. He has inherited all the promises, dispenses them to his people (Gal. 3:15-29).

Spoke last time of time references in Bible – this age / next age; former days / latter days; first advent / second advent. Micah and contemporaries, in former days, looking forward to ushering in of Christ’s kingdom. God would have, in fullness of time, demonstrated that earthly kingdom even made up of His people could not achieve ideal, could not provide everlasting hope. Required a better kingdom with better king, covenant with better promises. Is clear to us now that kingdom promised by God through prophets would be founded on Christ and his work of redemption, would formally begin at his ascension.

And yet… full expression of kingdom is still future, even for us. Must wait for next age to experience it. Meanwhile, have all challenges of this age to endure before kingdom comes in its fullness. Just like Jewish people had to endure humiliation, pain and suffering before Christ’s kingdom came. Micah has declared God’s plan for their eventual restoration; now he warns of rocky road they must pass as they move forward.

A. pain is inevitable v.9-10

light dawns (9)

prophet speaks as though audience finally catching on that really is a problem, but not really sure why or what is all about

uses sarcasm – has leader disappeared, has advisor been removed, what’s the matter, why are you crying in pain

were trying to convince everyone nothing was wrong, had nothing to worry about, all good between them and God, yet…

by mocking them Micah tries to show how trusting in wrong things / people has led them to certain disaster – message they would have thoroughly rejected earlier

another principle at work here: sometimes things have to get pretty painful before sinners wake up to what God is saying

use all sorts of rationalization to avoid God – need to work harder, blame the other guy, redefine terms, outright denial

God will do all necessary to bring about not just minor concessions but precise result he intends – confession, repentance

hope is that once there is change of heart that change of circumstances will follow – I’m being good now, don’t need to be grounded

sometimes is how God works, Nineveh for example; but… they responded to first warning; Israel been deaf to many warnings repeated over long time

have reached point where no escaping consequences for sinful behavior; God may mercifully reduce punishment, rarely removes it entirely

exile is coming (10a-b)

God expects confession/repentance whenever appropriate and without regard for outcome – is the right thing to do no matter what follows

Micah makes plain – should repent from sinful rebellion against God and be thankful God is merciful when he punishes

will experience real hardship – will be homeless, deprived of creature comforts had come to enjoy… and depend on… rather than God

God will “withdraw” some of his protection, permitting their enemies to prevail and cause real damage – to property, perhaps life as well

will not be able to count on God’s shelter and provision in same way as before – would be means God uses to chastise / correct

lessons learned the best come at cost – lost things, prestige, freedoms – all good gifts from God but not seen that way by Jewish people

one of greatest lies they had bought into: we’re God’s people, he won’t let bad things happen to us – can substitute “I’m a Christian,…”

so is deliverance (10c)

important lesson for Israel, for God’s people in general, for parents – when God disciplines, he never takes away hope

God gives assurances – discipline is necessary, will be of limited duration, has a particular purpose, results in blessing

Jewish people need not be hopeless – made plain even though exile in Babylon was necessary and certain, God would not abandon them to their enemies

doesn’t give timetable here, that’s elsewhere, e.g. Jer. 29:10 – would not be perpetual, would be delivered from enemies as surely as were delivered to them

B. God is sovereign v.11-13

foreign nations God’s instrument (11)

Babylon to be ultimate destination but by no means their only enemy – Assyria on doorstep, Egypt would get its licks in too

God made clear to Jews going in – treatment by enemies not outside God’s will for their lives, will be God’s ordained purpose for them

and don’t forget, God had something in mind for their enemies too:

these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the LORD”Jer. 25:11-12

gives hope for kind of life to expect after exile ends – enemies not given opportunity for payback, God will keep them in their place and protect his people

oblivious to God’s purpose (12)

nations will have no understanding of their place in God’s plan – to be used as his instruments to bring about his purpose

might think that unjust of God – not so when God is indulging their sinful desires, letting them have their own way… for a time

Israel needed to grasp God’s part in all of it, that he was using willing instruments to discipline his people… for their good

as part of their deliverance God would gather their enemies together – would then use his people as instrument of punishment

because of imagery used is easy to think in military terms – conflict may be of that kind, much more likely spiritual warfare in view

Israel restored (13)

not an invitation, suggestion, rather a command as given to Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter – Israel brought back as from the dead

promise given indicates Daughter of Zion will have place of honor and prominence not experienced before

is also clear that restoration/blessing is not to be for purpose of personal gain – any gain to be devoted to God’s use and glory

purpose of restoration to provide conditions necessary for birth and ministry of Messiah as Micah about to reveal (next chapter)

that means this conquering and subduing of enemies has the Church rather than national Israel in view – will be as Gospel advances that governments topple, Christ’s enemies are overcome

all of this will take place according to God’s sovereign purpose and rule – God is one directing world affairs toward conclusion he has ordained, no one or no thing can alter it

C. already, but not yet v.1

promised but still future

ok, back to the present – that’s what will happen, what happening now much different, Israel under siege and won’t change

real promises of real things that would/will happen at God’s appointed time but time is not yet – would be more suffering, humiliation before Israel finally carted off to Babylon

Assyria the world power in Micah’s day, Babylon not an empire yet – things needed to happen for other nations before God would bring Babylon against Israel

once again, Israel would have to live by faith in promises of God – knowing what they were, maybe not personally experiencing

same for us

we live in similar already-not yet scenario as Israel – have been redeemed from our enemies, restored to honor but not fully – must wait for next age

as Gospel and Christ’s Church advances around world, is conquering / subduing enemies in its path but not fully – must wait for Last Day, Great Day

to be participant in all that is promised requires union with Christ – in him alone will God’s people regardless of country of origin receive promised inheritance

important for us all to remember: One who was hope and consolation of Israel is hope and consolation for all mankind

God didn’t deliver Israel so they could experience his favor all by themselves – he intended they should be witness to the nations… and so should we

must do our part to warn of evils of sin and its accompanying judgment along with hope of eternal life thru repentance and faith

what gives courage and confidence: God is sovereign, has a plan and purpose for his people, committed to using us as his instruments to enlarge his kingdom, our future absolutely secure in him

 

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Life With God: Preparation for a Divine Encounter

Exodus 19:7-15

Sense of awe largely absent from American culture. Awe: “A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might.” American Heritage Dictionary

Example – when was last time you heard our head of state referred to using his title? Or other heads of state, for that matter! Then are things being said about those individuals both in public and private. Not just sense of awe that is absent, at times little if any respect shown. If people in large numbers so readily display disrespect for individuals they can see and hear, is any wonder God is treated same way?

Might think that’s problem mostly for the unchurched – people who go to church know better, have proper sense of awe… “reverence, respect, dread, and wonder” toward God. Not so fast – at times exact opposite what is promoted. And folks wonder why so many see church as irrelevant.

WSJ article, 05/13/91, focused on up and coming southern megachurch.

Megachurches… offer as much in the way of activities and entertainment as they do religion. The Christianity they do serve up is mostly conservative and to-the-point, stripped of most of the old hymns, liturgy and denominational dogma that tend to bore the video generation. Second Baptist Church, for instance, prefers to call itself the “Fellowship of Excitement,” on signs and in its church bulletins.

“Second Baptist is considered state-of-the-art. …the church looks little like a traditional house of worship. That’s a trademark characteristic of megachurches; they shun crosses and steeples that might scare people off.

“Seven years [earlier], …Mr. Y, who had been called to head a small congregation in a conventional church building already on the property, …envisioned a place “that a totally godless, secular person can come to . . . and not feel threatened.”

I would say this: if that is what they have achieved, then “a totally godless, secular person” will not meet God in that church. How does our text picture God and man’s approach to God? Is worship in God’s presence consistent with Mr. Y’s vision? You might say, “well that is the God of the Old Testament and we’re in the New Testament now.” True, some things have changed. But this has not: God is God, same God regardless of Testament who does not change. God patiently worked through mediator, Moses, to prepare his people to meet with him.

Began with their commitment to obey all the Lord had spoken; Moses received specific instructions from God; then went back down the mountain to get people ready.

A. commitment to obedience v.7-8

covenant initiated (5-6a)

not something people asked for, weren’t looking for it, not result of negotiations between diplomats – was God started it

covenant did not come about without a context – reminder to people: you’ve already seen what God has graciously done for you, therefore

God expected children of Israel to have faith but not a blind faith – had seen/experienced evidence not only of God’s existence, also his providence

one-sided in that God imposed it on his people, yet came with conditions – obey his voice, keep his covenant, God expected response of faith

also included promised blessing for obedience – if you have faith and obey, you will become people God intends them to be

covenant communicated (7)

God revealed plan for people to Moses using words, required Moses to accurately pass along God’s word to God’s people

down the mountain he went, summoned elders – Moses paid attention to Jethro and kept application going, beyond initial situation Jethro observed

practiced full disclosure – Moses held nothing back, no room in future for anyone to say “didn’t tell me that”

what should expect from God anyway – no fine print, no surprises in the details – also expect from one who speaks for God

people’s response (8)

need to be cautious how we view their answer – easy to consider recorded history, how far from perfect or even acceptable their performance eventually

I say be cautious because God never charged them with being hasty or insincere or untruthful – in fact, he accepted response

God knew would fail miserably, was factored in to his relationship with mankind in general, children of Israel in particular

is why they would be given provision for repentance / confession / forgiveness… accompanied by sacrifices all pointing to Christ and his ultimate sacrifice

don’t miss point – people needed to embrace God’s covenant with them in order to access promised benefits; still true – must embrace God’s covenant in person of Christ to have hope of heaven

Moses acting as mediator took people’s response back to God, giving answer on their behalf as their representative

B. serious business v.9-13

people need to hear God (9a)

was essential for people to know beyond doubt – Moses not making things up, was mouthpiece and God the original

when gathered at mountain on third day, would hear God himself speaking, then Moses repeating to them what God said

pattern continued even when people did not hear God directly – would be assured that heard him speaking through Moses

people of God in all ages need to hear God, know when they listen to sheperd are actually hearing faithful rendering of God’s word, God’s voice

sinful people need a go-between (9b-10a)

by God’s design, interacts with people mostly through mediator – Moses going to get his exercise going up/down mountain

even Moses had to meet expectations – take shoes off, holy ground; come and go at God’s direction; Moses had unique relationship with God because of grace and mercy, not merit

and… Moses only got just so close to God – only ones allowed to be in God’s immediate presence without hindrance are those without sin

means we only approach throne of grace through merits of Jesus, wearing his righteousness not our own

God requires devoted clean children (10b-11a)

consecrate / sanctify them – those who approach God must be devoted to him, set apart for his exclusive use

we like competition, God has no interest in it – wants people to put aside loyalties to other things, love / worship him alone

external washing reminder: need cleansing – a holy God rightly requires his people to be holy, expects them to do their part

true, God looks on person’s heart… also sees outside, too! need to be respectfully presentable when we approach in worship

people need to see God (11b)

not a full reveal of God by any means – enough to clearly show people who was visibly present on the mountain

this imagery would persist in minds of those who saw – when Moses said “thus says the Lord”, would remember sight/sound

we are blessed to have full revelation: Lord Jesus – Heb. 1:1-3 God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, …the express image of His person”

God establishes boundaries (12-13a)

no one approaches God except by his consent – is God who established terms of covenant and conditions of approach

purpose of boundaries for protection/preservation of people – permit as close as possible without danger of being destroyed

along with clearly defined boundaries, explicit consequences for failure to respect them… something lacking in today’s world

God announces his presence (13b)

another indication of who’s in charge – come when summoned, at God’s invitation — and God graciously invites sinners

announcement not intended to drive people away, cause them only to dread his presence – awe and reverence and fear, yes, the awe that draws you in closer, as close as possible

C. thoughtful preparation v.14-15

summoned to prepare for worship (14a)

Sanctify them,” that is, “Call them off from their worldly business, and call them to religious exercises, meditation and prayer, that they may receive the law from God’s mouth with reverence and devotion. Let them be ready,Exo 19:11. Note, When we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it concerns us to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand. Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed, nay, and all cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid by, that our hearts may be engaged to approach unto God

instructed how to please God

instructions God gave Moses then given to elders and to people – how to prepare themselves to be ready to meet holy God

also preparation for receiving message God has for his people, details of how to love God and neighbor, incl. how to worship

involves both external and internal preparation (14b, 15)

needed to go through external rituals that pictured spiritual truth – souls and bodies need to be made ready for God’s presence

also needed to prepare thinking / focus of attention, shifting from things of daily life, this life, to things above; from earthly relationships to relationship with God

implies promise of great blessing

nothing inherently sinful in pleasures of marriage – for God to restrict implies he has something better in store

need little or no encouragement to focus on temporal pleasures, push unseen spiritual into background – need help to refocus

refocus we must, regularly – things of earth only temporary, God is eternal and must devote self to him, recover sense of awe

“Such a view of God’s majesty as Israel were favored with at Sinai is the crying need of our day. The eye of faith needs to see Him not only as our “Father,” as “The God of all grace,” but also as the “High and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isa 57:15), as the “Great and Dreadful God” (Dan 9:4), as the One who has said, “Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance” (Isa 40:15), …Let it not be forgotten that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is one and the same; He is a God into whose hands it is a fearful thing to fall. May His Holy Spirit so reveal Him to us, as the One to be reverenced, obeyed and worshiped.” A W Pink

 

The Kingdom Is Coming

Micah 4:1-8

No surprise we live in fallen world surrounded by things and people afflicted by the Fall. Continually being reminded things not entirely right, things don’t work as expected, results not what we desire. Occasionally something really tries our patience… to the limit – absolutely refuses to cooperate no matter what we do, how hard we try. Eventually reach point where we give up, throw in trash, wash hands and move on, never looking back.

God about at that point with children of Israel. Chapter 3 ends with city of Jerusalem being “plowed like a field”. Would expect to hear next about God turning attention to new people, different part of world, Jews consigned to dustbin of history never to be heard from again. Not way story continues. In fact, exactly opposite. Could not be any more obvious – God has not given up on his people, has not abandoned his plan for them. Instead, everything Micah threatened all part of perfect divine plan to teach mankind powerful lesson.

Israel had 500 years to make government and culture according to man work. Rather than succeeding, they failed miserably – more time passed, worse things got until God finally said “enough”. Not a surprise, he knew would turn out that way but Jewish people thought otherwise. And people still do, confident they can construct a social and civil order that will endure.

That is part 1. Part 2 is what comes next, our text this evening and thru end of chapter 5. God’s purpose not to destroy his people and leave them in ruin. Intends to redeem from ruin, restore to place of favor and blessing. Micah continues his message with instruction about the future, what they and we can expect as God continues working his plan. Going to be some trying times, extremely difficult for many. Yet the faithful have glorious future to anticipate, one found in fellowship in Christ’s church… beginning in this life, experienced in fullness in next life. Micah’s message designed to offer great and genuine hope – no matter what world situation may look like, God wins… and we don’t need to wait for then end to see real evidence of it.

A. instruction v.1-2

when – in the latter days

two ages: this age, the age to come; in this age, two eras: former days, latter (or last) days – in both cases, Jesus is the pivot

first coming divides this age – time before and time after; second coming ends this age, ushers in age to come

also need to bear in mind – when prophets viewed future, did not always see / specify time lapse between events

and… not always clear in prophetic literature things that are process rather than event, reach fullness over time

what Micah describes takes place over time during period between Jesus’ comings, could be referred to as NT church age

what – the Lord’s house established

pictured as mountain range with one peak standing markedly higher than all the rest – that one is the focus of attention

is God himself who will establish his house and its supremacy over all other “houses” – this kingdom that is coming not another version of previous failures

can think of house in several ways: often refers to dynasty, royal family line; also, place where family lives and interacts; when is God who lives there, is place of worship

is a house with one King, Lord Jesus, accompanied by nation of kings and priests… those one with Christ through faith

place of God’s dwelling where he welcomes those adopted into family, fellowships with them, nourishes / guides / teaches

where God’s people gather to worship God as he expects… and people desire: true children love / want to worship Father

result – peoples flow to it

appears as mighty magnet, drawing people in large numbers from all directions – is what God has had in view all along

Lord Jesus not only pivot of history, defining major points of timeline – he is to be object of worship by people of all kinds

thoughtful reading of OT leads to inescapable conclusion – God has always had big family in mind, committed to making happen

reason nations stream to “mountain of the Lord’s house” – God draws them to himself using his appointed means

reason – the law/Word goes forth

Zion, house of God of Jacob, from place of prominence is to radiate God’s truth – is primary / foundational means God uses

Christ’s church will / must proclaim truth inside and outside the building so people will hear / respond in faith as God enables

what Paul means in Romans 10:9-15read

is God’s Law, God’s Word that God uses, accompanied by Holy Spirit to bring men, women, boys, girls to repentance and faith

B. peace v.3-5

rebuke – judge/rebuke worldwide

will be a real kingdom with king, subjects, territory, system of government – one that supersedes geopolitical boundaries

wherever God’s truth goes it declares there is a standard of right and wrong that applies to all people in all circumstances in all places for all time

not what postmoderns in or out of the church want to hear – there is absolute truth, trumps every other kind

serves as searchlight, shining light of truth on men and their deeds – wherever it penetrates, God’s truth rebukes sinfulness

those determined to persist in rebellion faced with two options (until judgment day) – put the light out or hide from it

how that works – John 1:4-5In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

repurpose – swords into plowshares

wherever God’s truth goes in power, it does bring peace – in fact, is only provider of genuine peace: converts sinners to saints, enemies to friends

totally misguided (and hopeless) idea to leave indigenous people alone, try to protect their way of life from change

is effect of Gospel truth on people and cultures that transforms from self-destructive barbarians into civilized peoples

“The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination”, Lorraine Boettner, Chapter 28: Calvinism in History

rest – under vine and fig tree

is as people stream to house of God of Jacob that they find true rest – not cessation of labor, rather satisfaction of enjoying fruits of labor… in peace

typical aspect of slavery: work, work, work… for benefit of someone else – Egyptians, employer, government Satan and agents

freedom found in Christ also brings rest found in Christ – rest that ultimately includes physical, goes way deeper: your soul

when trust and confidence is centered on Christ, regularly spending time in God’s house with God’s people, being instructed, realize there is nothing we need fear

if are inside circle of God’s providential care, nothing comes into that circle except what God permits – and is always and only what He intends for our good

redemption – from individual gods to true God

no claim to genius here, all are in same boat to start with, following respective gods; even Christians can fall back into that… temporarily

need periodic reminders, course correction, change of focus – remember who has redeemed you from ruin in slavery

is also distinguishing characteristic of people of God – not all gods are same, just with different names; YHWH is different

C. restoration v.6-8

regathered – from the nations

is God who does all the work – assembles the lame, gathers the outcast, makes something of them when they have no way to make anything of themselves

“God helps those who help themselves” may be effective motivational sound bite but is totally wrong theology – “God helps those who cannot help themselves” more like it

not wise/rich/famous/beautiful people God rescues – is those who never get second glance that he pays attention to

notice also… God does not rule nation of rejects – he makes them into strong nation, making people into something different from what they were before

gathers people of all kinds and colors and cultures into one house, one nation – distinctives we like to maintain have no place in Christ’s church

especially when evangelism is focus, must be sure not to overlook people that are off everyone else’s radar, ones that other people purposely avoid

ruled – by God… in Mount Zion

clear who makes up this dynasty, God himself, in person of Lord Jesus – King of kings, Lord of lords who rules over his people

is in Mount Zion, in they Church that Christ rules – remember, he said “my kingdom is not of this world” Luk. 22:30

is kingdom in hearts of his subjects, active wherever temple of living God is found… in his Church throughout his world

don’t get to vote for this ruler, his portrait not on our money, doesn’t hold press conferences, yet is real sovereign ruler

return – to honor

lost in judgment before exile

Israel close to finally losing all pretense of self-rule – during Micah’s lifetime, Sennacherib would prevail over northern kingdom after siege of Samaria

Judah would hold out for another hundred years, then Babylon would begin to make her moves, succeeding in 586 BC

entire nation under control of foreign heathen nations – people scattered, carried off into exile, territory ruled by others

thoroughly humiliated by God for her rebellion, honor stripped away, any real claim to prestige lost or destroyed

would eventually be restored… in the church, as people of God become a holy nation and kingdom of priests

lost in judgment following sin (Eden)

big picture, honor still not fully restored in Church… in this age – must wait for next age to be restored to original

actually in God’s gracious plan will be better than original, greater honor even than Adam had prior to sin

will be forever confirmed in righteousness, neither desiring nor able to sin, enjoying rest in its fullness in land never touched by curse of sin

Life With God: On Eagles’ Wings

Exodus 19:1-6

If chapter 18 transitional between deliverance from Egypt and sojourn at Sinai, makes current chapter introduction to rest of book. Really is much more than that – doesn’t just give few details about who, where, why, setting stage for description of what comes next. Yes, is historical narrative, but… is God’s word the Bible, written to communicate God’s truth to his people in every age. Is far more here than narrative of facts about Jewish heritage and connection to Mount Sinai.

For many, Billy Graham a well-known recognized figure. Known for many years as America’s pastor, easily recognized by millions across social and religious spectrum. Survey conducted recently among those who attend Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month:

Churchgoers who are ages 18 to 34 are most likely not to know who Graham is (16%). Only 1 percent of those 35 and older don’t know who he is.

One generation – 1 out of 100 do not know who he is; next generation – 16 out of 100. Imagine how will change for next generation, and next, and next. Similar true for Hebrew children, only not Billy Graham but God, YHWH who faded from memory. Abraham knew God, talked with God… numerous times. Isaac knew God, different yet personal relationship/knowledge of YHWH. Then Jacob… he wrestled with God, and prevailed (Gen. 32:28)! Joseph knew God, had visions and explanations given to him from God. Then don’t hear much about God interacting directly with people for several generations… until burning bush. Memories faded, Hebrew children maybe recognized name, remembered stories from old days. But… didn’t really know God, didn’t know how to relate to him.

Here, within sight of Mountain key to so much Jewish and Christian heritage, God took opportunity to instruct them, prepare them for law code he was about to give. God graciously sets the stage, making plain the terms of his relationship with his people. They had seen God’s power, evidence of his presence (pillar of cloud/fire), were about to meet with God and hear him speak. God would make plain to them how they could become people he intended for them to be.

A. review v.1-2

left Egypt

just as God had promised to Abraham – not a random occurrence but according to YHWH’s precise plan and timing

God delivered for no other reason than because loved Abraham/Isaac/Jacob and had chosen them to be his people (De. 4:37)

was the way God purposed to demonstrate superiority over all other gods, sovereign rulership over all his creation

God also doing something else here: purposefully delivering people hopelessly mired in bondage so could serve Him

order is important: God delivered before people really knew him, whether they wanted to be delivered or not

many couldn’t even think about leaving – too dispirited; later, many wanted to go back, or at least said so… but none packed up and did so

why order important? their deliverance not something they earned by meeting list of conditions, future blessing from God not something earned by keeping his Law either

no less true for us than for Hebrew children – God doesn’t wait until we desire him before he saves; if he did, never happen

and… no way we can earn God’s favor – God’s Law never intended to make anyone righteous, has other purposes

just as Israelites had been dependent on God’s grace all the way from Egypt to Sinai, would continue to be so, and us too

camped at Rephidim

not only place with name where had made camp, perhaps not even last stop on journey to Sinai – why Rephidim singled out?

two significant things at Rephidim: dire need for water, conflict with Amalekites – dependent on God’s provision / protection

dependence not going to change… even after arrival in Canaan, settled there – would still need God in their lives

important to remember: Law does not provide water – Law points us to need for water of life available only from the Rock

2nd thing: Law does not protect God’s people from their enemies – is only power of God acting in their behalf that does

conflict with Amalekites painful but necessary reminder – living as people of God in sin-corrupted fallen world risky business

have God’s covenant promises – he will be our God, we will be his people – if/when trust in him, will prevail over enemies

arrived at Wilderness of Sinai

level plain at base of Sinai, suitable for pitching tents and pasturing animals, God would continue supplying manna / quail

reasonable to expect word had gotten around… why Sinai? – this was the place, burning bush, God and Moses, …and the sign: “worship on this mountain”

attitude of excitement and fear/trembling – what might God have in mind to show them… and how would God treat them

would have extended opportunity to find out – camped for rest of that calendar year and into next, until tabernacle complete

all that takes place during that time makes this one of two most significant mountains in Bible – other is Zion

fulless of God’s revelation of himself / his character here at Sinai only surpassed 14 centuries later when God-in-flesh arrived

B. summons v-3

first of 3 round-trips… in chapter 19

v.3 (7), 8b (14), 20 (25) – somehow Moses knew he needed to go up the mountain – is clear in v.20, “God called/summoned Moses to the top of the mountain”

according to Deut. 34:7, even 40 years future Moses “natural vigor had not diminished”; still, pretty good hike up mountain!

God would set clear firm boundaries, at same time calls Moses into his presence, then extends invitation to rest of people

if can say this about God… his default is to be close and personal with his people, as much as possible w/o violating character, compromising his nature, consuming his people

will be some dramatic displays on top of mountain – fire and smoke and thunder and lightning – setting tone for relationship… but not driving people away: this close but not closer

verbal communication

Heb. ‘amar, most commonly used for conversation – would at times be true for God and Moses, not always one-sided

important element of conversation: words – communication includes body language, some estimates 90%

what gives definition / clarity to communication is words – have been part of God’s communication since Creation

repeated in “God’s word the Bible”, written revelation – communicating vital truths never fully revealed in any other way

all we need to believe concerning God, how we are to behave so as to please God – comes to us in word form, not images

initiated by God

really began few months ago, at burning bush – God made first move to engage Moses, keep him in conversation

this a continuation of that conversation – Moses sent away on assignment, God has brought him back, beginning next stage

instructed to speak

verbal communication to continue but with difference – Moses resisted God long enough to lose blessing of being sole spokesman before Pharaoh – had to share with Aaron

role has now changed: Moses meets with God, communicates God’s message directly to people, acting as God’s prophet

as for any true prophet – no freedom to ad lib, improvise, get creative with message – faithfully accurately repeat God’s words

C. covenant v.4-6

remember this v.4

divine judgment – important for them to remember what had happened to Egyptians, who had done it, and why

was YHWH, their God who judged Pharaoh / Egyptians / false gods because of repeated refusal to worship / obey Him

truth was… they deserved what Egyptians got… and so do we – God would have been totally justified in bringing judgment on them / us – only reason they / we didn’t: God’s great mercy

divine deliverance

had nothing to do with Hebrew children’s efforts – deliverance all of God from start to finish, first plague to Red Sea

was God who told them at Red Sea – stand still and watch what I do for you; supplied manna, meat, water; protected from enemies – had God not done that, would have died

divine drawing

God’s overarching purpose Genesis to Revelation – draw his people to himself… because he loves, chose, redeemed them

powerful reminders – is all because of God’s grace – God’s Law not superseded by grace, was given in context of grace

a special treasure v.5

out of all creation / peoples, God chosen people to be his, special treasured possession – don’t start out looking like treasure

in order to become what God intends requires obedience and faithfulness to covenant… the one God begins to describe next

important note: obedience not condition to be met before God chooses, covenant relationship not reward for faithfulness

they/we don’t get ourselves cleaned up to point, then God takes over; we don’t keep Law to earn salvation – is sovereign gracious act of God and always has been

a kingdom of priests v.6a

while God was forming group of former slaves into nation, makes plain to them focus not to be exclusively inward

characteristic of priests is ministry, service to others and on behalf of others – close connection with foundational themes of God’s Law – love God, love your neighbor

what God has in view here is “love your neighbor, not your selfie” – as God graciously loves his people, they must love others

a holy nation v.6a

God’s people regardless of ethnic origin to be different and distinct – a holy nation, set apart from all others to God alone

that set-apartness visible and obvious when God’s people follow God’s standard with God’s help – displaying love for God and love for others by actions and attitudes

Remember what God told his people: “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” Have a picture of “strength and might of God”s sustaining care, and its loving tenderness” (Pulpit Commentary). Entirely because of God’s grace, unmerited favor shown to his people.

 

And the Priests, Too

Micah 3:9-12

Are times in life of a nation / people God has seen fit to send a prophet, someone with narrow focus and specific ministry. Often is of relatively short duration, sometimes only few months or years, other times much longer. Primary task of prophet to get attention of people, call them out on their sin, exhort them to repent before God brings certain judgment. Some have said if God doesn’t do something soon about our nation, he’ll need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Understand what they mean even though God owes no one an apology for anything. God was merciful to them, has been merciful to us.

Yet… does seem like any time now would be good one for God to raise up a prophet… or several, who will call politicians, pastors and people to attention. Are some who try to fill that role, calling down judgment on different segments of society. Was not Micah’s method, to call down judgment. Instead, he warned sinners of their peril, doing his part to persuade them to do all necessary to avoid God’s heavy hand of discipline. Micah’s message not exclusively doom and gloom; in fact, God revealed through Micah one of key prophecies concerning Messiah… place of his birth. That revelation in context of other descriptions of God’s redemptive purpose for his people.

When confronted with increasing evil in world, neighborhood, even family, is real easy to plead with God – hurry up and send Jesus back to deal with all this, set things to right once for all, punish the wicked and reward the righteous. Better prayer – work powerfully by your Spirit to convert rebellious enemies into friends and willing servants; apply Christ’s work of redemption broadly and effectually in all parts of world, not just our part.

Once again Micah calls audience to attention; “Now hear this”, almost a courtroom drama as defendants are identified, their evil behavior exposed, in process true character revealed, sentence is declared.

A. the defendants v.9a (cf.11a)

leaders across the spectrum

some role reversal going on here – those accustomed to giving orders / acting with impunity are called to attention… and expected to heed what prophet says

leaders of the family of Jacob, rulers of the nation of Israel – spans all positions of leadership: great to small, top to bottom, public especially yet including private (e.g. in the home)

covers both geography – Jacob and Israel

this at time when divided kingdom well established – Israel (10 tribes) in the north, Judah in south – God still views/treats as one people in spite of political division

keep that in mind, too, God has only had one people, those he has called out of the one race we call human – holds true for present and future

and role – politicians, prophets, now includes priests

identified specifically v.11 – heads / leaders who judge, priests and prophets – primary focus on those in public office

these the individuals who set tone for all of daily life… and worship – their attitudes / actions have great impact for many

principles apply very broadly

have specific target, yes, but don’t forget: those in leadership to be exemplary – those they lead should be able to copy safely

really are basic principles of right and wrong with respect to relationship with God and with others – both tables of the Law

B. their behavior v.9b-10

charged with upholding justice

first responsibility of civil government – to act justly and encourage / require others to do same; when others do not, is gov’ts job to intervene

hard, even impossible to effectively do what they hate with a passion – exactly the way it turns out, those who hate justice neither practice nor encourage it

expected to do right, encourage right

Rom 13:3-4 “…rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. …Do what is good, and you will have praise… he is God’s minister to you for good”

they “pervert all that is right” – iow, their sense of right is upside down – perverted actions flow naturally from perverted nature, one blinded / deceived by sin

in fact, Israel’s leaders so corrupt they try to make what is right to be wrong, what is wrong to be right – calling God’s truth hate speech, infanticide woman’s right to choose

achieve their ends through violence and perverse means

prophet may be using hyperbole, more likely not – unjust perverse behaviors / practices could easily cause hardship leading to loss of life

would not be first or last to protect their domain, advance their cause by murder – Solomon vs. Adonijah and Joab (1 Kin. 2)

same true for laws, policies, other practices advertised under guise of good while designed to promote agenda beneficial to select few, harmful to many others

Note: Zeal for a good or right cause can never legitimize sinful or wrong means – even if what they were pursuing somehow good/right, achieving it by methods displeasing to God never acceptable

God may and often does use sinful behavior to bring about what is ultimately good, however… does not magically make that behavior morally acceptable

C. their character v.11

character does matter because governs behavior – is why child training should involve shaping character, not just behavior; why essential to consider character when voting / appointing / hiring

character of these rulers / leaders obvious by conduct, how they performed God-assigned duties

judges who have a price

should be impartial regardless of money – remember Lady Justice: depicted wearing blindfold… for good reason

justice not to be blind, rather not taking one side over the other because of potential for some sort of benefit, whether personal or not

justice centers on maintaining standard of right and wrong with rewards and consequences as established by character and decrees of God

Israel’s judges / politicians deciding or legislating in favor of one who made most worth their while – catering to particular interests or interest groups

they contributed a lot to reelection, better listen to them; you support me on this one, I’ll support you on that one

priests and prophets driven by love of money

implication is “you pay I’ll teach”, no money no teaching; yes, God’s servants deserve to be supported… however, should give freely regardless of who gives what

implication also that priests were assuring those who paid that what they were doing was ok, iow affirming their sinful behavior… leading and encouraging people further into ruin

and all because of their avarice, their desire for money – focus on gain, not good of those in their care

should be motivated by love for people… since that is what “motivates” God to be gracious to his people…and they are his agents

claim to be “doing it for the Lord”, serving God, speaking for God – at same time living and encouraging others to live contrary to God’s character and standard

were quick and loud in assurance that since they were God’s people, nothing to be concerned about, God would protect them

Micah’s tone indicates he had cause to believe Israel’s leaders were not ignorant of truth, rather had chosen to reject it – treading rosy path to perdition with eyes wide open

can you spell “hypocrite”

hypocrisy evident two ways – what they knew vs how they acted, standard applied to themselves vs that applied to others

guilty before God on both counts, especially serious because of influence they had over others, effects actions had on others

D. their sentence v.12

will see all they labored to build up demolished

had built up Jerusalem – many ways you think of as evidence of prosperity – all serving as source of wealth and “honor”

would be plowed – flattened and turned under – without value, hidden from view, no longer source of pride and accomplishment

in fact, “heaps of ruins” are liability rather than asset – must be cleaned up / leveled out to be useful, place for something new

will see all they labored to acquire forfeited to enemy

anything of value plundered and carted off to foreign land, belonging to Israel’s enemies and perhaps not recoverable

2 Kin. 25:13-17 broke/cut up all valuable metals too heavy to carry, carried pieces and all the rest from Temple off to Babylon – same would hold true for valuables anywhere else in city

was practice of conquering armies – take what you can of value, destroy the rest; applied to large cities, places of lesser significance

judgment will affect everyone profoundly

both leaders and those they were responsible for – not just “big guys” who would lose out, everyone would in some way

poorest actually made out best – had little/nothing of value, mostly left alone and left behind – everyone else paid high price

those with most possessions and power lost most – demoted from ruler to servant, stripped of honor/prestige/possessions

no opportunity to shift blame – “because of you”

really because of their willful sin – God didn’t have anything personal against leaders, was their persistent rebellion especially that harmed others that prompted his anger and judgment

When considering events of world history, is OK to look for human explanation. e.g., why did Japan enter WWII? What provoked the War Between the States? Why was Assyria, then Babylonia moving against God’s people? Human reasons were present for sure, but they were secondary. They were the instrumental causes God used to bring about his purpose for his people in his world. And God’s purpose is primary. In this case, his purpose to deal with sin, then restore a remnant. iow, show his power and glory by Redeeming his people From Ruin.

Also need to remember – as slow as God is to bring judgment, he is quick to show mercy… and he does so whenever possible. God’s big picture goal is redemption – he never deviates from that purpose, will do all necessary to redeem every last individual he has chosen, converting enemies to friends, servants, even children. Certainly cause for rejoicing and praise.

 

Wise Counsel – Part 2 :: Needed: God-fearing Men

Exodus 18:13-27

Regardless of which particular event we consider in Israel’s history, is easy in most cases to find fault. They didn’t trust God, they were too quick to criticize, they forgot all God had done, they went back to old ways of worship, and on it goes. Poor Moses, having to put up with all those people almost impossible to please. Must have gotten discouraged, ready to pitch whole business, go back to tending sheep. Most days whole lot simpler to feed / water sheep than lead bunch of unwilling people.

Just like Israel’s experience had bright spots, times when did what was right / pleasing, so it was for Moses. God graciously provided great blessings to Moses, giving courage to persevere. This time described in our text one of those significant and rewarding occasions for Moses. First, reunited with family… wife and sons, after at least some months of separation. Had been no communication / contact whatever during interim, was total separation. Then, Moses gets word family just a short distance away, would be there for supper.

Second blessing – opportunity for conversation, fellowship, worship with father-in-law. Obviously had good relationship, developed over 40 years of acquaintance. Was one where both could speak freely and not take offense. Under God’s guiding hand Jethro used that freedom for Moses’ great advantage. Others have spent much time, paid much money to learn what Jethro gave as gift to Moses. Best part about it – both men on same page… spiritually, devoted to God and his service, committed to doing what was right and best.

Are given description of situation, then are told Jethro’s wise solution; followed by report of success, finally will make some application to today’s life.

A. situation v.13-16

court is in session

next day, business as usual for Moses – probably greater load because of time off day before to entertain father-in-law

here’s the picture: Moses carrying out responsibilities as shepherd, just like when he was in Midian – only problem, more than 1M of those pesky sheep

nature of life and leadership – situation developed over time, not one Moses set out to create, just kind of grew on him

someone come to Moses with question or problem, one he could answer or fix… so he did, without thinking of precedent

word spread, got a problem see Moses, he’ll fix you right up – and the line kept getting longer… and longer

Jethro observes and questions

thank God for wise father-in-law / mentor like Jethro – had distance and objectivity, also wisdom and understanding to recognize serious problem and offer solution, one pleasing to God

question: what in the world are you doing? then response: that’s not good – Jethro also had courage to be honest with Moses

great enough mutual respect so Jethro could freely speak his mind and be confident Moses would listen, not smile/nod/ignore

Moses defends

problem actually had two parts – first Moses, doing too much, at risk of burnout; second, everyone else, not doing enough

people asking question, because Moses could answer thought he should answer – not always best, esp. when other duties get compromised

B. solution v.17-23

Jethro’s assessment

Moses, you do what God has called you to do, choose capable leaders to do the rest – do what is yours to do well rather than trying to do all… poorly

situation not going to get better, only more demanding – needs of people would not decrease, neither would number

seems to be general human problem, why 5% of people do 95% of work in organization – both lack of delegation and laziness

Moses’ assignment

Moses had specific role no one else could fill: his ministry – to bring people to God, bring God to the people

important for him, anyone in similar position: no one else to do his job, no one else to pick up slack for his assignment

Moses was to be representative of people to God, going to him with difficulties and issues that no one had solution

note: not looking for solutions based solely on human wisdom but those informed by principles laid down by God

if God had not yet spoken specifically enough to guide leaders to solution, Moses would take issue to God

Moses needed to be able to think clearly, present issue to God well, hear response from God accurately to be effective

Moses to be representative of God to people – communicate truth from God to people so they could learn what to believe, how to behave so as to please God

someone who is stressed, overburdened, fatigued cannot teach wisely and well – something Moses alone could do

this according to God’s plan and design – God appointed Moses, even when he objected, to be God’s agent to his people

elders’ qualifications

again, don’t need NT to see principle first – labor of ministry, work of shepherding God’s people too much for one individual

apostles in Acts 6 needed help, used same principles as Jethro told Moses to use – select right kind of men to help you out

capable – needed to be those whom God had given practical gifts / skills needed to lead: solve problems, mediate disputes, set the tone for daily life, ones people respected

God-fearers – non-negotiable, loved God, understood his ways and principles, dedicated to following and worshiping him, pleasing him in all things… able to lead others by example

trustworthy – could be trusted in all situations, motives not in question, would give sound counsel without pursuing any kind of personal agenda

men of integrity – were committed to doing what was right and just without giving in to outside influence, couldn’t be bought or threatened

elders’ employment

their task to take care of small stuff, let Moses focus on serious issues that could not be addressed at lower level

prominent benefit: when issues are addressed and solved at lowest level possible, things don’t get out of control, they stay less complicated

also tends to be more effective when those involved in problem have ownership of solution – these elders have to live with people they are directly helping

C. success v.24-27

Moses listened

responded well: took counsel of Jethro, implemented suggested plan to benefit of everyone – himself and all the people

could have copped attitude: see as loss of power / status / authority, been resistant to making sweeping change like this

perhaps breathed sigh of relief, could focus on smaller task with larger scope of influence – better for him and people

able men judged

Moses chose able men, not told how far down the ladder Moses actually chose individuals – perhaps something he delegated

was carried out successfully and effectively – chosen men did the job assigned to them, people cooperated with new order

when consider magnitude of what actually took place in v.25… that it was successful had to be a “God thing”

job completed

not always true, was this time: mentor had opportunity to see how God used wise counsel for good of son-in-law and people

more often give counsel and then don’t know for long time if ever how it turned out – God blessed Jethro for his faithfulness

D. application

is wise approach to responsibility in many situations, basically across the board in all three institutions: family, church, state

is good set of qualifications for men in leadership, really a standard all Christian men should aspire to, strive to achieve

family

training ground for all of life – should be structured according to God’s plan/principles, provide adequate instruction/example

for example: chore chart, not simply for getting household tasks done – is opportunity to put biblical principles into practice

church

many good practical reasons for applying this model to structure and organization of church

not only smart idea, is biblical model – best reason, what Bible encourages

enables each member of the body to act according to God’s call and purpose

state

same rationale applies to issues of state, how government should work to benefit of people

wise for separation of powers, division of labor – limits abuse, enhances efficiency

Notice Jethro’s summary statement, v. 23: “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” ESV iow, if you implement this, God will bless you with understanding and endurance, and people will live in peace. What is Jethro really saying? If both you and your people understand principles of God’s word and live in light of them, God will bless. When we follow God’s model, God will be with us (19a), we will live in peace (23) – starts with God-fearing men. One of greatest needs in homes, churches, governments – God-fearing men who will lead their families in loving obedience to God. God-fearing men who will lead church families to become more Christ-like. God-fearing men who will lead businesses and governments so as to promote righteousness and discourage evil.

God’s word illuminated and applied by God’s Spirit has the power to transform people. For those God-fearing men to carry out appointed task faithfully and well, must be men of the Word… throughout the week, on Sunday. Should expect every Sunday when we hear God’s word read, explained, applied… leave different from how we came. Ought to be our desire, week by week, day by day, brought into closer resemblance to Lord Jesus as we deny self, take up cross, follow Jesus in light of his Word.

 

12. Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?

Matthew 12:12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Read: Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11 (cf. John 5:16-30)

Setting:

immediate setting – Sabbath in the synagogue, group present including scribes (experts in the law) and Pharisees (Luk. 6:7)

Jesus present as teacher, disabled man also there (right hand, Luk. 6:6), religious leaders with an agenda… to discover basis for discrediting Jesus (Luk. 6:7)

two hot-button issues for Pharisees: Sabbath practice and questions of authority – what kept coming up in challenges to Jesus

questioning actions of Jesus and his disciples on Sabbath – one of distinctives, set Jews apart from Romans, vigorously boundaried, rigidly defended and maintained

Jesus knew challengers’ thoughts, intent, so forced the issue: “stand up” (Mar & Luk); “is it lawful to heal” (Mat); “is it lawful to do good” (Mar & Luk); no response (Mar); second question, “…sheep…”, answers his own question (Mat); angry, grieved (Mar), healed

Person(s) being questioned:

“them” – asked question so they could accuse (Mat. 12:10), identified as “scribes and Pharisees” (Luk. 6:7)

“looked around at them” (Mar & Luk) – at least group of leaders, since “grieved by the hardness of their hearts”

not typical of Jesus’ attitude toward average Jew, reserved for leaders who should have known and done better

in synagogue teaching session, response to rabbi not limited to religious types – any of men could have answered

Question behind the question:

more than one concept in view here, several “layers” to issue Jesus addresses

1 – if you treat an animal with compassion, why not a person

really a more fundamental principle than Jesus’ miracle of healing – level of basic human response to another creature

2 – what about tradition/regulations (entire body of oral and written tradition raised to level of Mosaic law or above) that should encourage or facilitate doing good but seem to hinder or even prevent it

3 – what is whole purpose of Sabbath anyway, how is that reflected in Sabbath practice and regulation in Jesus’ day (see earlier context)

4 – who has authority over the Sabbath and to whom does it point, in whom is it “fulfilled” (Mat. 11:28-30)

Expected response:

religious leaders on horns of dilemma – if they give honest response, would defeat their purpose by validating what Jesus was about to do; to give response that supported position, would damage/destroy their credibility and enhance Jesus’ standing — a lose-lose proposition for them

honest answer – no comparison between life of creature and life of human being made in God’s image

answer they wanted to give – sheep more valuable: would rescue dumb animal to avoid financial loss, disabled guy has waited this long, he can wait until not the Sabbath

keeping Law by maintaining externals all they knew – most lacked ability to grasp spiritual significance

Jesus’ point:

1 – because of imago Dei, should show compassion to both beast and man… especially if is right to rescue beast; yet even on lesser grounds – man is rational being, beast is not – man should be treated better than dumb creature

2 – probably without exception all present would agree: God is good, God does good, God expects his people to do good, God’s law reflects those principles

if/then! if that is true, then anything intended to accompany God’s law must work with it, not against it – iow, man’s regulations to guard God’s law must promote good while restraining evil

a regulation that would forbid Jesus healing or doing other works of mercy just the opposite – prevents doing good, facilitates continuance of evil (illness, disease, disability)

3 – purpose is pursuit of holiness – in order to do that, work is forbidden… either self-imposed or imposed by another (master/employer)

sanctified / set apart as day to rest from normal daily labor and, in place of that, use freed-up time to cultivate relationship with God, understanding of God and his ways

4 – the One who instituted it has authority – that means Jesus, because one with Father; points ultimately to Christ, re-creation and redemption; is fulfilled in Christ, source of rest for his people, one who leads them into eternal rest

Modern Application:

1 – use the right method / metric when considering environmental / ecological issues

2 – church and state both need to pay attention to this: rules/laws and expectations across the board should promote/facilitate what God’s law commands, forbid/hinder what God’s law forbids

important note: church expectations / regulations must not go beyond God’s Word and bind conscience in ways God does not

3 – remember God’s design intent regarding 1 day in 7, follow it, encourage others to do so with respect to both what God forbids and what he expects

rest from normal labors, attend to pursuit of holiness; don’t do what encourages others to violate those principles (shopping on Sunday, e.g.), do encourage them to pursue God

4 – above all, seek rest for soul in Christ, look forward with anticipation to eternal rest promised to the believer