Luke 2:21-38 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus is Dedicated

 

When I get them uploaded, this will be updated to included a video of the baptism that occurred after this sermon!

 

Luke 2:21-38

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus is Dedicated

 

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, please see me after the service so we can give you one as our gift to you.

Last week we saw God become man. God clothed in flesh. Jesus the Christ was born a human baby boy. And as a human baby boy, he did all the things that a baby does. He cried, despite what some Christmas songs tell you. He nursed and ate. He dirtied his diaper. He was a human baby boy and all that that entailed. ZI saw those things not to sound crass our irreverent. Instead, to remind us all that he was indeed a baby and a human being. He was also God, but He was fully both, not part one, part the other, or fully one instead of the other.

As a human baby boy, we read earlier this morning that Jesus was born under the law, meaning that he was required to keep the law that God handed down. Failure to keep the law would mean that Jesus sinned, fell short of the glory of God and would not be able to be our salvation.

And what we are going to see today is Mary & Joseph doing the things that they are supposed to do under the law after having a baby, and especially a son. And we will see two affirmations of Jesus being not just a baby boy, but also God himself.

Let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 2, verses 21 through 38. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. The important thing is not which translation you read, but that you read the Word of God for yourself, so please read along as I read the passage. Luke 2:21-28, Luke, inspired by the third part of the trinity, himself fully God, the Holy Spirit, records:

 

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant[e] depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[f] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

So, we start off with some more parallels that Luke makes between Jesus the Christ and John the Baptist. On the eighth day, his parents took him and had him circumcised according to the law of Moses. As was custom of the day, they also officially named him that day. Both Mary, back in Luke 1:31 and Joseph in Matthew 1:21 were told by angels to name the son Jesus. And that’s exactly what they did.

Sometime after that, likely 40 days after his birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to have him dedicated. For the timing of the dedication and the required sacrifice, we go all the way back to Leviticus 12. It reads:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons,[a] one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”

 

Mary and Joseph were observant, obedient and righteous. They went to the temple. They brough their sacrificial offering with them. From this we do see that Mary and Joseph were not well off. They were poor and working class and we know this because she brought a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Once again, this early in Luke, we see who Luke sees is important to God. God shows up and appears to and pursues those who are poor and lowly, especially, and specifically the poor in spirit. Kent Hughes notes: “Here we again see that Christianity began and always begins with a spirit of need- spiritual destitution.”

He continues later: “God did not and does not come to the self-sufficient. This is a truth we need to remind ourselves of again and again. Christianity wrongly understood gives some an illusive sense of personal spiritual adequacy. Even the born again can wrongly turn spiritual advances into prideful self-sufficiency- a sense that one has arrived. We must continually guard against this within ourselves. Our only adequacy is in Christ.”

 

Mary and Joseph were not the established. They were not rich and powerful. They were righteous, but they were nobody. They were not known by anybody outside their family and immediate neighbors. They were poor materially; they were poor in spirit. And they God sends an angel to tell them that they are going to miraculously give birth to the savior, the Messiah, the Christ. They do this, and yet she gives birth in a manger, the poorest of situations. Then the shepherds show up and tell them what they have seen! Now, they go to the temple and dedicate Jesus and we see two more examples of God affirming and confirming who Jesus really, truly is.

Luke likes his pairs and parallels. We saw that with Mary and Elizabeth. We see this with John and Jesus. We will see that often further on in Luke’s Gospel and we see this today with Simeon and Anna, two prophets, waiting at the temple, praying, and serving the LORD.

Simeon was waiting for the Messiah. It is presumed he is a very old man at this point, though that is inference. He was waiting for God to redeem his people and was filled with the Holy Spirit. God revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the LORDs Christ, the Messiah, the promised one from God.

What we pull from this is not that we won’t die before God does this or that we wont die before God does that, but as one commentator writes: Once he (Simeon) had this promise, Simeon patiently waited for its fulfillment. This is what it means to be a believer: it means waiting in faith for God to do what he has promised. How often Simeon must have walked the streets of the city, waiting for the salvation that God had promised to give.

 

And on this day, Simeon “just happened” to be at the temple, in the right place at the right time. We know of course that it was not coincidence, but that God directed this.

And you can just imagine Simeon, as he lays his eyes upon this baby being dedicated. He would have seen, probably hundreds or thousands of babies as he was waiting for this one.  But he saw Jesus and he just knew. He grabbed him, held him and let out praises to God.

He was so excited that God kept his word. He got to see the Messiah! He could go home now. He had been blessed by God and now got to see the blessing of God, for the rest of the World.

And what Simeon said here would have been either confusing or nearly blasphemous if many had overheard him in the temple. The first part would have been just confusing, as we have looked at in recent weeks. Simeon looks down at baby Jesus, born to these two poor people and declares him the LORDs salvation.

This was not how the savior was supposed to come. He was supposed to be a mighty warrior, coming down and freeing Israel from the captivity of what nation was oppressing them, which at this point in time was Rome. He was supposed to militarily defeat and drive them out, then physically take the seat of the throne of David in Jerusalem. That was what was expected, not this baby born to a couple of paupers.

And yet, Simeon says my eyes have seen your salvation. And he is not just a part od our salvation or a means to our salvation, but he is our whole salvation. Kent Hughes writes on this statement by Simeon: The Baby Jesus was and is God’s salvation. Moreover, he did not say, “My eyes have seen part of your salvation!” Christ is totally sufficient. He is all we need! True Peace comes only when we, like Simeon understand that salvation is Jesus Christ plus nothing- and rest our souls in him alone.

 

This baby Jesus would bring salvation to all Gods People. And this is where it would become controversial to those in the temple. Its controversial to some today. Simeon says:

for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

Wait? What did Simeon just say? He said salvation for your people Israel, I got that… But did he say just say something about the gentiles too? He must be getting a little bit too old, too much frankincense this morning or something.

Simeon shared the good news of the Gospel, that ALL people are able to receive salvation. This is a light for revelation to the Gentiles. And glory for Israel. God opened this up to the gentiles! This was unheard of. But God makes it clear in the scriptures that all who believe will be called Israel. Both believing Jews and believing Gentiles are what make up Gods people. And God sent his son to save all of his people.

Now, it seems likely that it may have only been Mary and Joseph who heard Simeons words. But they heard these things and as they were want to do, they marveled at them. We don’t see anything of Joseph after the childhood of Jesus, whether because he wasn’t part of the story or because he died or whatever. But Mary and Joseph struggled with who and what exactly Jesus was. They heard and believe the angels. The heard and pondered in their hearts what the shepherds said. They marveled here at what Simeon said. They believe this but they didn’t fully understand it. And there’s no indication that they ever really did. At least not until after his resurrection.

Simeon then turned his attention from God himself over to Mary. And he says two things of note here. First, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, Now, most people look at this and read it one of two ways.

RC Sproul sums them: If the “fall and rising” applies to one group, then it means that they must be humbled in repentance before they can rise into salvation. If it describes two groups, then it indicates that those who reject Jesus will fall eternally, but those who accept him will rise to be with God.

Now, the good news is that both of those statements are 100% biblically accurate, so it doesn’t matter which side you fall in in regard to which Simeon meant. But next we see him say to Mary that a sword will pierce through her soul.

This was going to cost Mary. She was going to see her son look crazy, teach things that most did not understand, be reject by nearly everyone and then, finally killed and crucified. This was not going to be easy for her. She did not have any of those indications yet of course. But we can clearly see that this is what Simeon was referring to.

Next, we meet Anna. Now, her, her we know that she is older and who she is and where she is from. We see she was married for 7 years before her husband passed. The next tidbit is hard to translate. Mine says that she lived as a widow until she was 84 years old. Some may say that she was widowed for 84 years, putting her age at over 100. It changes nothing either way. She was old and had been widow for the vast majority of her life. She used that time to be dedicated to serving the LORD. She went to the temple every day and worshipped and prayed and fasted.

Interestingly, she is a perfect model for what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:5, saying: She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, Part of Paul’s context is that we are devote ourselves to the work of the LORD instead of opening up ourselves to idleness which allows the devils temptations to creep in.

Anna came up and saw who was in the temple that morning and she began to give thanks to God and speak of him to everyone.

Oh, that we would all continue to be that excited for Jesus and the work of God, even at possibly over 100 years old! What an example and what a testimony!

Anna responded as all those who truly encounter the living God will be called to respond. She gave thanks for Christ and the works he has done for us. And then she went out and told everyone about him.

 

Now, we have seen here this morning that Luke shows us two ways that we can see Jesus Christ as truly man. We see him circumcised as a baby, on the eighth day, as prescribed by law. We saw him brought to the temple and dedicated, with Mary and Joseph providing animal sacrifices for the cleansing of sins.

We also saw two witnesses testifying to the fact that Jesus is not just any baby, but is in fact, truly God. Simeon and Anna testified to this. And its funny to me that Mary and Joseph, taking part of the sacrificial system of the blood of animals temporarily atoning for ones sins, brought with them  a baby boy who would grow up, live the life and finish the sacrificial system once and for all, shedding his perfect blood and atoning for the sins of all who, through the grace of God giving us faith in Jesus Christ our LORD, respond to Christ in faith and repent of our sins.

 

 

Lets PRay

Daniel 11 & 12 pt 1 God of All Nations: Daniels last vision

Daniel 11 & 12

God of All Nations

Daniels last vision

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 11. If you do not own a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

We are in the stretch run of our series through Daniel that we have titled, God of All Nations. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 are on last episode in Daniels life. One last vision that God is sharing with Daniel, and through Daniel, sharing with us.

As we come into chapter 11 and look at the vision that God is presenting to Daniel, we remember that the context of this vision includes what we looked at last week in chapter 10.

In chapter 10, we saw Daniel upset and discouraged at the vents that were getting in the way of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. He was praying and fasting over the situation and he had a vision, an appearance by one who had an appearance like a man. That messenger who appeared, pulled back the curtain and gave Daniel a glimpse at the unseen spiritual warfare going on between Gods Angels and Satan’s Fallen Angels, or Demons. We saw how prayer affects those battles and how those battles affect the things of this world.

And today we will see some of the things of this world that will be affected by this spiritual warfare. We will see history predicted and prophesied from the other end. We will see quite a bit about Antiochus IV, otherwise known as Antiochus Epiphanes, who we also saw and talked about in Chapter 8. In short, we are going to look at 400 years of history before it happens.

Before we read our first section of this morning, what we are going to see is a long list of kings and rulers and conflicts and history being prophesied. And if we just read through it, it can easily be read in the same way as the genealogies throughout scriptures or the lists of kings in the Old Testament, where we just read, or skim through it until we get into the narrative further along.

We want to avoid that because it is scripture and it is included in this vision for a reason. So, lets go ahead and read Daniel chapter 11. We will start with verses 1-20. As always, I will read out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, whichever that may be.

Daniel continues to record, as the messenger continues to speak from chapter 10:

And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

“And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.

“Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority. After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported[a] her in those times.

“And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.

10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. 13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years[b] he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.

14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. 15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom,[c] but it shall not stand or be to his advantage. 18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed,[d] he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle.

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, all of that was entirely crystal-clear right? No questions?

 

In all seriousness, all of what we just read, can be and is verified and confirmed by the historical records we have. We have the names, the years these events happened, and we have the details about what these prophecy’s mean. WE are not going to get into all the minute details this morning. One of example of doing so in a commentary, John Calvin filled over 40 pages going through this section. If you are interested in point by point breakdowns, I can recommend a number of commentaries or, once we are done in Daniel, I can lend some out.

That being said, there are some things we will point out and some things we should know. It starts off with telling Daniel that there will be three more Persian kings and then one will come along with great wealth and then great power. This fourth king would be who we know as Xerxes from the book of Esther.

With his wealth and his power, around 480 BC, he would start a military campaign against Greece that would start the ball rolling to the Greeks conquering Persia after we skip ahead in v3 and see, once again, Alexander the Great. Remember Alex reigned and conquered from 336 to 323 BC.

We see and we know from previous visions that Alexander only ruled a short time, he conquered everything there was to conquer and then he died. His Kingdom was not given to his children, they were murdered. Instead it was divided amongst four of his generals.  One of the things we see is that the world sees this man as “great” and he was incredibly powerful in this world. And yet, the scriptures see him and describe him as a broken horn, like we saw in Daniel 8:22.

What you achieve in this world is nothing compared to what God can do. Alexander found out, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will find out, each and every one of us will find out what Isaiah says in chapter 40, verses 22 & 23:

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

 

 

Alexander was a great military leader, but once he died, as we all do, his kingdom was not what it was supposed to be or what he wanted it to be. IT was divided into four pieces and for the purposes of this vision, we are going to see the North Kingdom, the Seleucids, and the South, the Ptolemies.

It is through their families and through the leaders of these two kingdoms that go down through the major events in the region, in the known world at the time, of the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. We see all sorts of political intrigue, family drama and all sorts of betrayal and conflict.

God knew all these things ahead of time.  He knew how all the conflicts and drama would play out.  Throughout history, in the bog and in the little, God knows who will win and who will lose. He knows who will betray who and who will cross who. He shows that he knows by showing us hundreds of years before it happens. Major moments in history and minor moments in history, none is out of the control and the sight of God.

Long story short, this is the history of the rulers of the North and the south Greek empires. They are the North and South because they are north and south of Jerusalem. The geography here is why it was included in the scriptures, why it matters to the vision. We start to see in this section, but we will really see with Antiochus Epiphanes the affect this has on Jerusalem and Gods people.

But what about us? If its in the scriptures, if its part of Gods Word, it has to have some meaning for us as well. I will give you the words of Iain Duguid as he expounds on the application of this passage. He writes:

This is an important lesson for us to learn from this history. The kingdoms of this world often seem overwhelming in their power to accomplish great things, a power that can easily either cow Christians into a state of depressed submission or, alternatively, seduce them into trying to use the worlds power to do Gods work. Some Christians seem to believe that they can hasten the coming of Gods kingdom by achieving certain political goals. Yet at the end of the story, and for all their vaunted power, the kingdoms of this world can neither destroy Gods work, nor establish it. They are merely tools in the hand of a sovereign God who is able to declare the end from the beginning because he alone ultimately controls the affairs in men and nations.

This truth is of great practical value to each of our lives. We all experience times when our existence seems caught up in a larger conflict that is completely out of our control. Perhaps our job is threatened when a manufacturing plant is closed by corporate authorities located thousands of miles away. Perhaps political decisions or terrorist acts that are beyond our power to influence threaten our freedoms and lifestyle. Our health, or the health of someone we love, may be threatened by a disease against which we have no ability to guard. We live in a great big world and we are ever so small.

 

Next, we see the rule of the northern Kingdom delivered into the hands of a familiar face, one that we spent some time looking at in Daniel 8: 9-14. Let’s read Daniel 11:21-35:

In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts[e] of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.

29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.

 

 

Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (a name given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. He was not the legitimate heir, but ascended to the throne through cunning, plotting and intrigue. And Scripture tells us that he was contemptable. He was cunning, he was ruthless, he was evil. He was, as we saw in Daniel 8 and we see here in Daniel 11, a foreshadowing, a type looking towards the end antichrist.

Antiochus would kill the high priest in Jerusalem and replace him with someone more politically pliant. He continued the battle between the Northern and Southern Greek kingdoms, sometimes doing well, but ended up having Rome start siding with the Southern kingdom, out manning his northern kingdom. He made deals and then broke them. He plundered the temple and was determined to exterminate the Jewish religion. When he was on one of his military campaigns in the south, there was a rumor that went around in Jerusalem that he had died. There was great rejoicing and a revolt and when he got back, he went ballistic on the Jews.

Antiochus is a great example of history repeating itself. Again, he is a type, a foreshadow of the antichrist. He has the heart of the antichrist. Very specifically and fully historically, this passage is talking about Antiochus IV. But we see rulers throughout history that could easily fit into this imagery.

In verses 31-35, we see again, some of what Antoichus did in Jerusalem and in the temple. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.

In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.

He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.

More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings.   At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through God’s grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

The Maccabees where those who, in verse 32, were “those who knew God,” and they were to stand firm and take action. We looked at 1 Corinthians 15 this week during prayer meeting and the last verse of that chapter reads Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

We are called both to stand firm and to take action. WE also see in verse 33, a mention of those who are wise. The wisdom is how we determine when and how to stand firm and when and how to take action. By being wise, we are to be prudent and understanding.

We use wisdom to know what to say. We use wisdom to know what not to say. We use wisdom to know how loud to say what we say. WE use wisdom to make sure that we share truth and not false. We share our wisdom with others.

Be wise. Stand Firm. Take Action.

 

Let’s finish up this chapter of Daniel, reading verses 36 through 45:

“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.[f]

40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack[g] him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.

 

Now, all previous events, all of chapter 11 til this point, are able to be historically verified and, as I said, we know who all the people and what all the events are. Starting with v 36, we don’t have historical verification of who this applies to and we know from other things we know about Antiochus that these verses cannot fully apply to him. Some will argue that v 36-39 still applies to Antiochus. But most will read into this that there is a major time gap between verse 35 & verse 36.

For those who see the time gap in these verses, the rest of this chapter is looked as talking about the end time Antichrist. One of the things I appreciate is in verse 36 when we see “what is decreed shall be done.”

We see throughout this chapter that bad things only happen until its time is over, until the time is determined, that what is decreed shall be done. It helps us see that even the immense persecution of Gods people is subject to Gods timing, to Gods control, to Gods allowance, and Gods sovereignty.

Verses 37-39 we see that all deception regarding false gods will melt away. There will be no more pretenses. We will be face to face with two clear and disparate choices. Either we will believe in, trust and choose the God of the Bible, the one true God. Or we will decide that we will reject God and side with Satan, with the antichrist, with the god of self and whatever else we think we might gain from this choice.

Verses 40-45 finish up the chapter and we see that it is bracketed with the terms time of the end and he shall come to his end. And the battles that are described here are hard to fit into history. I think that, if we look at them in context, especially in the context of Chapter 11 being inextricably tied to chapter 10, that we see that this battles are a part of the spiritual battles that we caught a glimpse of last week, with the Gabriel, Michael and who knows who else battling the Princes of Persia, the prince of Greece, and who knows how many other fallen angels or demons.

And then, he shall come to his end, referring to the antichrist. And we see that to remember that no matter how bad things get here. God will end it. No matter how elections play out, no matter what our governors and our presidents say. No matter what, God is in control. And those who go against God and his work, those who make the wrong choice mentioned a few moments ago, their time will be brought to an end.

And so, I am going to finish up, I read a passage from Iain Duguid earlier and I want to leave us with the very next paragraph following that passage.

In such times of personal uncertainty, we need to cling firmly onto the knowledge that all the worlds events , from the greatest to the least, are not only known ahead of time to God, but are under his sovereign power to control. Even those actions that are initiated by godless men and women in pursuit of their own wicked purposes will ultimately achieve the LORD’s holy purposes (Acts 4:27-28). He is the first and the last; apart from him there is no God. He alone can foretell what the future holds because He holds it in his sovereign hand.

 

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Daniel 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.
In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.
He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.
More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings. At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

Daniel 6 God of All Nations: Daniel Ends Well

Daniel 6

God of All Nations

Daniel Ends Well

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel, chapter 6. So, During the whole shutdown thing, we started a series through the book of Daniel that we are calling God of All Nations. This was the overall theme of the book, that God is the God of all nations. He is sovereign over everything single thing in this universe. He is King over all people and nations even if they don’t believe so.

The first half of the book of Daniel, which we finish up today, is key parts of the life of Daniel and three of his friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. Even more than that, we are seeing parts of their lives in exile, away from their home in Jerusalem, captured and put into service in the kingdom of Babylon, and now, as of the last verse of chapter 5, the Medo-Persian Empire.

Babylon defeated Jerusalem and brought Daniel and his friends over to Babylon when he was roughly 15 years old or so. He served and gained the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar, probably his son, and then Belshazzar briefly, again, as we saw in Chapter 5. He is in his eighties at the point where the events of chapter 6 are going to take place.

We have seen over those almost 70 years, God work some amazing miracles to the rulers of these empires, and we have seen him prove that he is the Most High God. These unbelieving rulers have even declared that the God of Israel, the God of Daniel is a god above the other gods. You can obviously see there that there is not necessarily a saving faith, that God is not the exclusive God, but one of many gods. But it is saying something that they would see him as the greatest of the gods.

So, in Chapter 5, we saw the Babylonian empire fall and be taken over by the Medo-Persian empire and Darius the Mead was installed as ruler of Babylon.

I think that is all the pertinent information we need to jump back into the book of Daniel, and we will read and look at chapter 6 this morning. We are going to start with Daniel 6, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel 6:1-9:

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement[a] to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

 

May God Bless the reading of His Word.

 

So, Darius becomes the ruler of Babylon and he starts to set up his government. He sets up different regional leaders called Satraps and he installs 3 vice presidents, or governors, three supervisors above the regional leaders, under only Darius himself. Daniel was one of those three supervisors.

Daniel’s reputation preceded him, and he continued to live up to that reputation of working hard, being completely honest and incorruptible. HE quickly rose above even the other two of the supervisors and made quite the name for himself. The text shows exactly what we have already seen Daniel do time and time again, and that is that the credit for all the Daniel was able to do was all because of God. The text gives credit to an “excellent spirit” in Daniel.

Daniel was doing such an impeccable job that Darius was going to set him up over the entire kingdom. All signs point to this being very similar to Joseph in Egypt, where he was technically not the King, but he was in charge of everything, answerable only to the King himself.

Now, of course, the other supervisors were totally jealous of Daniel. They wanted to get rid of Daniel. They didn’t do as good of work. They were typical of most politicians, both then and today. They didn’t want to put in the work. They wanted to get more out of the job, with the perks and the benefits, than they put in. Daniel wasn’t like that and it made them look bad.

So, they attempted a smear campaign against Daniel. Only there wasn’t anything about him to smear. They couldn’t find any transgressions. They couldn’t find any legal reasons to get rid of him. He was, in the words of 1 Timothy 3, above reproach.

And so, because they weren’t able to find any reasons to get rid of him, they had to make them up. They knew that the only thing that would cause Daniel to break a law of the kingdom is if it meant breaking a law of God. His loyalty to the King was under only his loyalty to God.

SO, they concocted this idea. Hey king, we all agreed. Let’s make it so that, for thirty days, no one may pray to or make petitions of the gods from anyone but you.

What they were doing was sinister. They were implying that Daniel was aware of and approved of the plan. They were appealing to the Kings pride and King and politician’s natural nervousness about their power base. This was not a religious law being passed, not in intent anyway. This was a way for King Darius to solidify his standing as the new King over Babylon. It was a way for him to consolidate his power. He would be the sole mediator between the people and the Gods. Of course we know what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5,  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, But the satraps were tempting Darius with the very thing the serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:15, saying, you too will be able to be like God.

 

          And of course, the punishment for anyone who betrays the King and doesn’t recognize his power and authority will be thrown to the lions. As was common in those days, in many of the cultures, once the king made a law, it was nearly impossible for that law to be changed or revoked. And so, Darius signed the decree and made the law into effect.

I want you to notice something about these satraps that plotted against Daniel. These were men who portrayed outward holiness and godliness. They acted as if they were serving the King and being public servants. But inside they were bitter, grumpy, their hearts were cold. The King didn’t see through it right away. When we encounter people like this, we can often not see through the outer façade right away. But eventually we do. When we look to see who people truly are, we can eventually see through the mask that people put on. These men, and so many today, even inside our churches are wearing a mask of godliness and yet they are mean spirited, they are deceitful, they are passive aggressive, and they take offense very easily.

We also must be careful not to be this ourselves. Things that are obviously easier said than done but start with not taking offense when others say something or do something that hurts or goes against you. We were discussing part of this Wednesday morning, but we are all human beings and none of us is perfect. Over the course of our lives, everyone in here will do something to everyone else in this room that will hurt, or will say something they shouldn’t have, or in whatever way sin against them. Our ability, through Christ and our duty is to forgive and move on. If someone sins against us, guess what, its entirely likely we also just accidently (or even more rarely, on purpose) sinned against Someone else.

Guard your hearts, not against others in this room, but against growing cold, bitter and distrustful. Guard your heart against taking easy offense and against shutting itself off from those around us.

 

 

Let’s continue with verses 10-18:

 

 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared[b] to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him

 

So, of course Daniel is put into a tough situation here. And what we are seeing is wave after wave of spiritual attacks coming against Daniel. Attacks from the enemy on his faithfulness and his perseverance. This is spiritual warfare, against powers and principalities. And Daniel has been putting on his armor of God. In Ephesians 6, where Paul lists out the Armor, he ends it in verse 18, saying praying always in the Spirit.

Daniel has been fighting these battles for almost 70 years now. We see another battle here. But one battle does not the war make. One thing we see often in scripture is that the temptations that the enemy slings at us grow stronger over the course of our life walking with Christ.

We see for example Jesus, who was tempted in the dessert right after his baptism. He was able to refute those temptations with scripture and go on. He faced a more ultimate temptation when he was faced with his impeding death. He prayed the night before, Father, if there is any other way, please take this cup from me.

The stronger our faith grows as we walk with Christ longer, the stronger the temptations need to be. The same temptation you get right after you respond in faith to Christ is nothing after you grow. The temptations grow and change as well. One commentator wrote: past faithfulness was not meant to be compensation for present unfaithfulness, it was preparation for more faithfulness.

When Daniel found out about the Kings decree, there was likely to be a temptation. We see Daniels normal routine. He went up to his open-air room, where he faced Jerusalem and he prayed to God three times a day. It likely was tempting to at least pray inside, where no one could see. It may have been tempting to adhere to the temporary law so as not to cause any trouble.

Daniel knew that the exiled Jews in Babylon time was coming near to an end. Jeremiah prophesied that the exile would last 70 years. Daniel knew that time was coming, and he clearly would love to go back and see his earthly home once again. But he clearly also had the same heart and attitude as Paul, who wrote in Philippians, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Daniel did what Daniel does. He went straight home and started praying and he prayed just as he always prayed. Now, we all know how easy it is to get distracted when getting ready to pray. It could have been quite all day, but suddenly, the phone starts ringing off the hook. You could have been bored all afternoon, but you start praying and your To-do list starts flowing through your head. There’s a knock at the door. All the kids decide to jump off furniture and kill themselves all at the same time. Whatever it is, it always happens.

Daniel is showing us that we should focus on and surround ourselves with the things that drown out those distractions and help us to focus on God. One of those things in his case was his home city of Jerusalem. There is no way to think that this is a mandate or that his prayers were better or better received because he was facing this city, but he was able to focus on God and to focus his prayers better by doing so. Find those things that work for you.

Now Daniel wasn’t trying to hide, but neither was he trying to virtue signal. He was doing exactly what he had always done. And he started by praying thanksgivings to God. Its easy to pray our requests to God. Its easy to pray our questions. But especially in our tough situations, it can be hard to pray thanksgivings. And yet, that’s exactly what we should be doing.

I saw this JC Ryle quote this week. He said: Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension. How a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.

Again, Daniel was nothing if not predictable. He went and prayed just like he always did. The satraps knew he would and made sure they witnessed him praying. They went straight to the King and again, in their holy language, straight ratted Daniel out to Darius.

The king was greatly distressed at this. He did not want to throw Daniel in with the lions. He knew Daniel. He could trust Daniel. And know he realized that he had been tricked. He saw that the true purpose of this decree was to get rid of Daniel, not to honor or serve him. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to not throw Daniel in with the lions. But ultimately, he had no choice.

Daniel was thrown in with the lions. One of the things we see throughout the book of Daniel is that God does not save us from trials, but instead he saves us through our trials.

Darius regretfully sentenced Daniel AS he put him in, he prayed that Daniels God would save him from this death. Darius genuinely hoped God could do it, and I think genuinely thought God could do it. Its hard to see if he thought God would save Daniel. But that is at least a kernel of what might develop into faith.

Darius went right to his room and spent the night pacing, worrying, waiting. Let’s read the rest of the chapter, verses 19-28:

Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So, Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

As soon as the day broke, Darius ran down, moved the rock from the cave and yelled, Daniel? Has your God saved you? And He had! Daniel was just chilling down there; I picture him lying against one the lions.

Now, notice this. Darius was the King. He had every possible earthly luxury. Anything he wanted was at his disposal. But he was going against God and he had a miserable night. He was uncomfortable, irritable and had no peace. Daniel on the other hand was operating in Gods Will. He was thrown in a cold, dark, damp cave with a bunch of meat-eating lions, likely kept hungry for times just as this. But Daniel spent the night in Peace. He was much more comfortable and had a much better night than Darius Did. This is the power of the Hoy Spirit.

Daniel responded to Darius that he was indeed alive, and that God had sent an angel down to close the mouths of the lions. Hebrews 11 also says that is was the faith of Daniel that closed the mouths of the lions. Daniel was declared righteous in front of God and he had not done anything bad against the king.

The King was exceedingly glad and brought Daniel up out of the pit. The King was not glad about the satraps and those who conspired against Daniel, however. He threw them and their families down in the pit and the lions reacted quite differently, pouncing on them before they even hit the ground. Justice was swift and severe. And of course, we know that Darius was not able to control the lions. He didn’t decide that they would eat the officials and not eat Daniel. God decides what happens, not us here on earth. God is in control. He is supreme and sovereign overall things, even whether the lions do what lions do.

Darius then follows in the footsteps of Ol Nebby where he decrees that all his people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel and he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

 

And isn’t that what we have been hearing all book long? Especially and specifically that his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall. Darius and the Medo-Persians had just risen above and watched and caused the fall of the Babylonian kingdom. But the Kingdom of God will last forever.

We don’t see here a clear profession of saving faith by Darius here, we see that he acknowledges God as, in the words of Nebby, the Most High God, but not as the exclusive and only God. But we also don’t see the hedging that was apparent in Nebbys praises. So, we are left to wonder about the eternal destination of King Darius.

Daniel however finished well. He stayed faithful until the end. He was faithful in his work, his service, his living in his life regardless of the administration that was in charge and regardless of what was going on around him.

Daniel was the epitome of Matthew 5:16, where we are called to let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. We are to be salt and light to our world around us.

We don’t know anything about Daniels life after this. Did he make it back to Jerusalem? It seems unlikely. But the early church recognized the same truth we know today that Daniel himself and the book of Daniel are all types and foreshadowing the coming Christ. Just as Daniel was an exile, looking back to his true home, and Hebrews 13:14 tells us, for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

In all this, in all scripture, it is to be used to look forward towards Jesus. HE is the fulfillment of all things Bible. There are so many things that we see clearly are types and prophecies of Jesus, but there are so many more that we don’t realize. Iain Duguid writes on this regarding Daniel 6, saying:

Like Daniel, Jesus was falsely accused by his enemies and brought before a ruler, Pontius Pilate, who sought unsuccessfully to deliver him from his fate, before handing him over to a violent death. Like Daniel, Jesus was condemned to die, and his body was placed in a sealed pit so that his situation could not be changed by human intervention. Jesus trial went even deeper than Daniels, however. He did not merely suffer the threat of death. He went down into death itself. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered the fate of the guilty ones. There was no angel to comfort him in the presence of God in his pit. On the contrary, he was left in the blackness, utterly alone and abandoned by God, suffering the fate that we, the guilty ones, deserved.

 

In the end, our ultimate verdict, whether ourselves or Daniel, is not based on our actions, our goodness or our obedience. Our verdict is based solely on the grace of God, given through our faith in Jesus Christ, all to Gods glory, above and everything else. Amen. If you have not repented and believed the Gospel, if you have not trusted and turned to Jesus Christ as your salvation, now is the time. IF you have, you, like Daniel are a citizen of an eternal kingdom that is to come as we live and serve as exiles in this kingdom today. May our lives, actions and faithfulness be salt and light to the lost world around us.

 

Let’s Pray.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

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

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 5:1-31 God of All Nations: The Night Babylon Fell

Daniel 5:1-31

God of All Nations

The Night Babylon Fell

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 5. As you are turning there, as you have all hopefully heard, this is my last week of online only sermons. We are opening back up, next Sunday, June 7 at our regular time of 10 Am. Finally, we get to come back together and worship the LORD together as a church family.

But in the meantime, Daniel chapter 5. The era of Nebuchadnezzar, Ol Nebby, is over. We start off here seeing his grandson, Belshazzar is in charge. And we are going to see the continuation of the main theme that we see in this book, That God is sovereign.

He controls kingdoms. He raises up rulers and he tears them down. Romans 13 tells us that all rulers in government were put there specifically and purposefully by God. Nebuchadnezzar was not unique. God has his hand in the reign of all rulers and kingdoms.

And we don’t know the eternal destination of Nebuchadnezzar. I myself am doubtful that he trusted in the God of Daniel, the one True God and his God. But he was teachable. And he did acknowledge Gods power and sovereignty. We look today at someone who was not teachable.

This chapter takes place, we know, in 539 BC. Historically we know this because 539 is the year that the Babylonian empire fell to the Meads and Persians. The city was, in all likelihood, already under siege at the point this chapter takes place, making the decisions made by Belshazzar all the more curious.

So, before we go any further, we will go ahead and read the first section of the Daniel chapter 5, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to grab your own Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel chapter 5:1-9, Daniel records:

 

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared[b] to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

The first thing we see, in the midst of the Persian siege against the last stronghold of the Babylonian empire, is that Belshazzar throws a massive feast, a great party. WE see in him shades of the rich young ruler in Luke chapter 12. Nothing else matters to him expect his riches, his persona, what others think of him. Belshazzar is going to be the perfect epitome of when Jesus warns us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

And he does sell his soul, while blinding himself to the reality around him. His city was falling. His empire was crumbling, and he was eating, drinking and being merry. And that was not enough for him either.

In verse 2, Belshazzar decided to take his rebellion against the Most High God up another notch. He called for the golden vessels that were taken, by Nebby from the temple in Jerusalem and he called for them to be brought to him as drinking vessels.

They were symbols of the Jewish religion and they were symbols of God himself. And anyone that thinks that Belshazzar didn’t know what he was doing, Paul tells us in Romans 1,  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

          This act by Belshazzar, using these vessels as regular china, getting drunk out of them, and toasting and praising a variety of false gods, this was the ultimate act of sacrilege, of disrespect and of blasphemy. This is the kind of thing that you would expect God to act against. This is the kind of thing that you want to step a few steps away from him because you just know God is going to smite him with a lightning bolt any second know.

 

 

And God does act. In a way we might not have expected. In a way that is so uniquely Him. A human hand appears and writes on the wall in front of everyone. Belshazzar has failed the test. He has, as we will see coming up, weighed in the balance and found wanting. As Iain DuGuid points out, the Babylonian gods failed here too.

HE writes:

Belshazzar praised his gods of wood and stone and gold and silver, ascribing to them glory and honor, yet his gods couldn’t keep the LORD’s messenger from disturbing the peace of his feast. Nor could they keep him safe from the Medes and the Persians. It may have seemed to the Babylonians that when they defeated Judah and destroyed the temple, they were thereby triumphing over Israel’s god as well. However, as the book of Daniel unfolded, it became clear that the reality was that Israel’s God could effectively defend the honor of his sacred vessels and the lives of his faithful servants, while Babylon’s gods were impotent.

 

Belshazzar did not know what the words said that were written on the wall, but he knew that his gods did not do it. He knew that they were judgment against him. We see how scared he became. His color and his face changed. Some of the original language seems to imply that he lost control of his bodily functions. He was shaking. Because he knew that it was a judgment against him, he needed to know the exact meaning of what was written.

And this was as close as he came to channeling Nebuchadnezzar. We something happens and scares you, who you gonna call? Chaldeans! Wisemen! Enchanters! Astrologers! Ghostbusters! Oh, wait…

Anyway, they came quickly, and they were, once again, offered high status and riches, possibly even becoming the third in line for the throne, to the one who could interpret these words for the Belshazzar.

Now, this part is completely just my imagination, but this is how I picture this playing out. Between the fact that the city was under siege and the fact that Belshazzar was not being as brutal and was not as respected as Belshazzar, the wisemen may not have taken him too seriously. I picture responding something like, “Sorry, don’t know, can’t help.” Maybe sounding bored with the whole situation. That’s probably not how it happened, but that’s how it played out in my imagination.

 

 

However, they responded, it reinforced his fear, as we see again, his color changing, he was shaking and showing all signs of being afraid. What is he going to do now?

We will continue with verses 10-16:

 

The queen,[c] because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.[d] In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods[e] is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

 

 

So, right when Belshazzar is at his wits end and doesn’t know what to do, the Queen comes in. Now, we know that this is not Belshazzar’s wife. WE saw in verses 2 & 3 that the wives and concubines were there at the feast as well. This would have been the Queen Mother, a woman of High power, high standing and with authority in the kingdom. I speculate that this was likely either Belshazzar’s mom, or his grandmother, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar’s wife.

She is quick to compare and contrast Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezzar and not in a positive light on Belshazzar either. She quickly reminds him of what he would have already known. See, there’s this guy, named Daniel… or Belteshazzar if you prefer, and he is the spirits of the holy gods. He kind of has a history with interpreting messages from the Most High God. Why Don’t you give him a call…?

 

We see that Daniels reputation preceded him. He would have been in his 70s or 80s at this point. He epitomized what Paul would later put down as one of the requirements for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:7, where” he must be thought well of by outsiders.” We are going to see that Daniel not only has a good reputation going into this, but he is going to live up to it as well. That should be a challenge to each of us. Do outsiders and those that are around us think well of us? And do they have good reason to? Do we live up to that view they have to us?

Belshazzar brought Daniel in and kind of gave a combination of flattery and skepticism when he welcomed him. Or maybe it was skepticism trying to masquerade as flattery. I’ve heard this about you…If you prove it, I will give you riches, power and status. He offered Daniel the same rewards he offered to the wisemen before him.

 

 

Daniel responds and interprets the writing on the wall in our last section, verses 17-31:

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,[f] Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered[g] the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed[h] in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[i]

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 [j] And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Maybe I’m reading onto this, but it seems that Daniel has no use for Belshazzar. He says, keep your gifts and keep your rewards. I don’t want them. But I will interpret what’s going on here.

Now, Daniel has accepted the rewards that Nebby, for example, has offered to him. And yet, he dismissed what Belshazzar is offering. We have lots of theories, but no for sure answers.

Was the difference the person offering.

Was the difference the scenario? That Daniel knew Babylon was falling?

Was it to show that the gifts of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be bought? We see this with Simon the magician in Acts chapter 8 as well.

I suspect that the first is the biggest factor here. There doesn’t seem to be much honor within Belshazzar and there doesn’t seem to be much respect for him from the people around him. This is a big difference between how people treated and respected Nebuchadnezzar and how they did with Belshazzar.

As we have seen in the last number of chapters, Nebuchadnezzar was not a perfect man. Not even close. He had to learn lessons the hard way. He had to learn the hard way who God was. He had to learn the hard way about Gods sovereignty, his power. He had to learn the hard way that God was the Most High God. He was humbled severely as we saw last chapter, and this was a man a King who had, from man’s perspective, a lot to be proud of.

Daniel says, You, Belshazzar, on the other hand, you already should have known. You already should have remembered the lessons that Ol Nebby had to learn the hard way. You have not humbled yourself and there is nothing for you to be proud of. And tonight, tonight was the last straw.

The words written on the wall are Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.

 

Mene; God has decided to bring your kingdom to an end. God has numbered the days of every kingdom that raises up in this world both in the past and in the future. God has numbered the days of the Babylonian kingdom and those numbered days are over.

 

Tekel; You have been weighed in the balance and you have been found wanting. You don’t measure up. All those things that you thought would balance the cosmic scales, they don’t add up to a hill of beans in Gods eyes.

Belshazzar and so many of us, we trust in ourselves. We have an elevated sense of self worth and pride. We think that we are good enough to rebel against and thumb our nose at the Most High and holy God and to get away with it. We think that Gods holiness demands nothing of us. That we can live it up today, that we can do whatever we want, that we can do our own thing, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, that we can do it all ourselves.

We think if we do enough good, be nice to enough people, live moral enough lives, protest against bad things, follow the rules of society, give to enough charities, that we can outweigh the sin in our lives on those cosmic scales. And there is no truth to any of that. It is a lie that sends people to hell.

 

 

Parsin; Your kingdom is divided. It is now out of your hands. It is being given to the Meads and Persians. God decides who is in control and he decides who takes over and who gains power and who loses power. God decided that it is time for the Medo Persian empire to rise and tonight is that night.

 

Well, none of that, obviously was what Belshazzar wanted to hear. But he knew, he could tell Daniel was telling him the truth. He gave the rewards that he promised to Daniel, whether he wanted them or not.

That very night Belshazzar died at the hands of the Meads and Persians. Babylon fell. Gods words were proven true. Darius the Mead, whom we will look at next chapter takes over.

Now, If Belshazzar had praised and trusted in the True God instead of his Babylonian gods, he likely would not have died that night. Now, don’t get me wrong, God does not play the Quid Pro Quo game. He does not give because he got. We don’t earn anything. We do not work enough to earn anything. But God does take care of and have mercy on those who believe in him, who trust him and him alone and who offer their full praise up to him and him alone.

God showed mercy to Nebuchadnezzar. He gave no mercy to Belshazzar. And his reason is simply because he said so. OF course, there’s more to it than that, but there doesn’t need to be more than that. God knows what he is doing and why and he is in control of all of it.

God shows the ultimate mercy on those who trust in him and his Son Jesus Christ. Many stories in the Old Testament point towards Jesus with the people we see. Daniel is of course one of them. Moses, Joseph, David, so many more have attributes that are partials of the ones that Jesus has in perfection. But we also see Jesus clearly in the opposites of some of the people we see, including Belshazzar.

Iain Duguid lays out Belshazzar as an anti-type of Jesus. Writing:

 

In contrast to the Kingdom of Belshazzar, which is weighed in the balance and found insubstantial and wanting to be divided among the enemies, there is the kingdom which God has established in Jesus Christ. Ironically, Jesus had none of the outward glitz and glitter for which the world clamors so loudly. He had virtually no possessions and relatively few followers. He had no outward beauty or majesty to commend him, appearing on earth as a humble carpenter, not as a mighty emperor. Jesus never had the resources to throw a star-studded party for a thousand of his closest friends, though he did brighten up a banquet that he attended by turning water into rich wine. His kingdom is not of this world.

          Yet when Jesus life was weighed in gods balance, it was found to be perfect and complete, able to satisfy fully the demands of Gods holiness, not just for himself but for all those who come to God through him. His great banquet awaits us in the future, at the end of time; on that day, in place of Belshazzar’s nobles, there will be thousands of Christs saints in attendance upon him- all those who have washed their robes and made them clean in the blood of the Lamb. At that banquet there will be no place for our pride or for toasting our achievements: rather, every single person who is there will confess freely that they have been saved by God’s grace and purified by God’s mercy. On that day, there will be no unseemly interruptions of the banquet: God’s rule will be established forever and ever. His kingdom will not be divided and given to his enemies: on the contrary, it is formed of a people who are made one in Christ.

 

Powerful and encouraging words of the reality to come. IF you don’t know Jesus Christ, if you have not repented of your sins and believed the Gospel, if you are trusting in your goodness instead of Christs perfect righteousness, now is the time to turn to him and to move from eternal death to eternal life. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation.

If you do know Christ, if you are washed by His blood, if you have submitted your life to His Word, His commands and His will, if you have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, then rejoice, that banquet that Duguid mentioned is waiting for us, as one in Christ, as one family in Christ, co heirs of the eternal kingdom of heaven where God will be praised and worship for all of perfect eternity.

 

Let’s Pray.

Daniel 2:24-49 God of All Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Daniel 2:24-49

God of All Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor!   Please grab your Bibles with me and turn on them to Daniel chapter 2. As you are turning there, let me say that it does seem like we are moving closer and closer to being able to meet together physically and in person once again. I do not yet have an idea, or a guess as to when exactly that will be, but I do know that the first week we are back together will be a celebration. We will have communion, we will sing together and we will have a potluck following the service. Please plan and pray accordingly.

So, last week, as we  looked at the first half of Daniel Chapter 2, Hope pointed out that we kind of left off on a cliffhanger. So, in that vein, we will start with, Previously…In Daniel…
Last week we saw that King Nebby had a dream that disturbed him greatly. He brought together all his wise men and his sorcerers and magicians and what not, got them all together and told them to both tell him his dream and then to tell him the interpretation of said dream. If they could do that, great rewards were awaiting them. If they could not, well, death is the nicest and the least painful for them, way to put it.

OF course, they couldn’t do this. As they said, no man on earth could do what the King was asking. Only the gods could do that and the gods don’t dwell with man. So, the order was sent out to kill all the wise men in the kingdom and this included Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Daniel asked for some time to receive the interpretation from God. His request was granted and he and his three friends prayed to God. God answered their prayers, Daniel received the information he was seeking and he and his friends gave thanks to God.

That’s where we left off. We spent all that time leading up to it and we never even shared what the dream was! Thus the cliffhanger. So now, this week, we will look at the second half of chapter 2. And this will include an important discussion between Daniel and King Nebby, this will include his dream and what it meant. We will look at the big picture, what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar specifically and the Babylonian kingdom and what that means for today, as opposed to getting bogged down in every minute possible detail or possible interpretation of every single aspect of his dream.

Details are important and every word of the Bible, every word of these dreams and prophecies are important and inspired By God, making them the very Word of God. However, we sometimes get so distracted by the cloudy, the unclear, the unanswered, that we loose view of what God is clearly telling us and wanting us to see.

So, with that in mind, lets goa head and read the first section of our scripture this morning. Over all, we will be reading Daniel chapter 2, verses 24-49. But we are going to break that into a few sections at a time. So, first, We will read verses 24-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along and follow along in your preferred translation at home. Lets go ahead and read, Daniel 2:24-30. Daniel records:

 

Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

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

 

May God bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, after Daniel had his vision or dream from God, which gave him the dream and the interpretation of the Kings dream, he went to Arioch, remember, he is likely the executioner, Daniel went to him and said, “Good News, you don’t have to kill us all! I can interpret his dream!”

Interesting, isn’t it? That Daniels response is not, “Don’t kill me,” but instead, “Don’t kill all these wise men!” Daniels life is one mark with humility. His life is one where he is looking at god first and foremost, but then he is look at others even before himself. We see that humility not only later on in this story, but again in the next two verses.

The next thing we see is Arioch having the exact opposite attitude. “King, I found someone who can tell your dream!” Completely contrasting the humility of Daniel, Arioch was trying to take credit for something that wasn’t his. Daniel was the one who approached him, both beforehand, and after God revealed the truth to him. But, Daniel was not worried about who was getting the credit.

Let me just saw, I have been in Daniels position here. I’m sure many of us have. You did something good, but someone else is trying to get either some or all of the credit. Trust me when I tell you, its almost never worth the time or the energy to fight and make this right. IN the grand scheme of things, does it matter. Yes, the Truth matters. But does it matter if its you that gets the credit? God knows and as Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel, their reward is here and now and our reward is in heaven, which will never perish or go away.

So King Nebby asks Daniel, “can you really interpret you my dream?” The expected and mostly true response would be Yes. But that’s not what Daniel said. He surprised the King by saying, “NO, I cant. Not only cant I do it, but your wisemen were right, no person on earth can do it.”

That must have stopped the King short. What is this guy doing in front of me? Why am I wasting my time? Also, can you imagine Arioch’s face at this point? “He lied to me! I stuck my neck out and took credit for finding him!” He must have been scared for his life right then.

But out of the dark comes the light. The motto of the reformation in the 1500s was Post Tenebras Lux, meaning, Out of Darkness, Light. We have to know the bad and see the dark in order for the us to be able to know the Good and see the light.

Daniels says, No man on earth can do what you are asking, BUT…

One of the greatest phrases in the Bible is But God. We see it often, things are bad, they are at their worse, we are dead in our sins, But God. Ephesians 2:4-5 are one of my favorite examples. Paul tells us we are dead in our sins, unable to do anything that might save ourselves. And he writes:

But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

 

We have no hope, no anything, no salvation, no wisdom, no nothing, But God.

Daniel says that no man on earth can do what the king wants, But there is a God in heaven who can and did. There is a God who dwells with us. Jesus is prophesied to be Immanuel, God with us.  That’s who he was and what he did. He came down from heaven and was born a man here on Earth. God became man to save sinners.

The wise men were right back in verse 11, when they said, The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” But God did show it to Daniel. He showed the dream and the interpretation both. And he tells the King, he did so and he gave Ol’ Nebby this dream to tell him what coming.

One commentator says, “That there is a God in Heaven, as against man-made gods and defiled men, is the supreme theme of the book, even as it is the cardinal principle of the Bible.”

Daniel here is very politely telling the King that all of those other religions, all the other so called gods are, quite literally, worthless. And he tells the King that God told me your dream, not because of anything about me. Just like he saves each of us, not because of anything about us, but for his glory and his purposes. Here, that purpose is so that Nebuchadnezzar would know what his dream meant and he gave him the dream so that he would know what would be to come.

So, now to satisfy the first part of the cliffhanger, Daniel tells the King what his dream was. Daniel 2:31-35:

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

This dream is incredible. Stephan Miller calls this dream “one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible.”

 

 

Imagine in your head, if you can, a statue, great and tall. Many presume that is must have been 60 cubits tall, which I think is 90 feet, based on the statue that Ol Nebby builds of himself in the next chapter.  So, a statue 90 feet tall, that’s 9 stories tall. The head was gold. The arms and the chest was silver. The midsection and the thighs were bronze. The legs were iron. And the feet were a mixture of iron and clay.

This is obviously symbolizing something, but Daniel doesn’t get into that just yet, he simply tells the King what his dream was. He continues, a stone cut out of a mountain, but cut by no man, was hurled and hits the weakest point of the statue, the feet, made by the iron/clay mixture/

It hits that spot and the statue crumbles and disintegrates. The dust blows away and it cannot be found. The stone would grow and grow until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

That’s the dream. Just in and of itself, sounds like a dream. Dreams are known for their interesting symbolism and imagery. And just like most dreams, the actual, full meaning of it is not readily apparent on the surface. Let us not forget that even if Daniel stopped talking here, he would have amazed Nebuchadnezzar and done the impossible. The King didn’t tell any one his dream. That was the test to make sure that ones interpretation was correct, that they could also tell him the dream itself. So Daniel would have already amazed Ol Nebby and we are only getting started.

Daniel will now share the interpretation that God gave him as we read Daniel 2: 36-45:

 

“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage,[c] but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

 

 

That’s quite something, isn’t it? All right, brief rundown. The statue stands for 4 kingdoms, the first of which is the golden head, which is Babylon. There is much speculation, much time spent on figuring out who the other three are and we will touch on that in a moment.

Starting with the head made of Gold, down through to the feet made with a mixture of iron and clay, the kingdoms deteriorate, or are progressively inferior. Each Kingdom shall rise to power and each kingdom shall fall. But there is a kingdom which will rise that will never fall. That Kingdom will crush every other kingdom and will the only and the last kingdom left standing, forever and ever.

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom is powerful, mighty and full of prestige. Among earthly kingdoms and by earthly standards, It is the pinnacle and it is the Gold Standard, pardon the pun. And yet, When Gods Kingdom is established, not even the strongest of earthly Kingdoms will be able to stand.

The most common view, and the one that I think sounds the closest to right is that these four kingdoms are, in order, The Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian empire, the Greek empire and then the Roman empire. But the text does not give us the answer to this line of questioning. Again, like many things we look at, and especially many things we think we know and we take for granted, its all speculation.

Iain DuGuid cautions us:

It doesn’t take long before we find our heads spinning with the variety of interpretations offered, all of which go far beyond the interpretation and application that Daniel himself gives here. It is important to notice however, that the passage itself gives us virtually no data about the specifics of any of these three kingdoms because it intends to give a philosophy of history rather than a precise analysis of history ahead of its time. As John Goldingay puts it, “In the drama of the story the description has to be allowed to remain allusive. People miss the point when they spend time arguing who the empires were. The focus of the dream itself and its interpretation are more concerned with what the future holds than when it will come to pass.

 

          And I think that DuGuid makes a great point there. When Jesus gives his Olivet discourse, where he addresses the disciples with what to look for in the future, he is more concerned that they focus on the fact that He will be coming back rather than when He will be coming back.

In Daniels time, Jesus hadn’t even yet come the first time. And as Miller points out, the Old Testament prophecies that point towards Christ do not distinguish between his first and his second coming.

 

This dream is pointing towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Its not actually worried about the earthly kingdoms. We are not going to spend time arguing about who they are or what they mean, but instead we are going to look at the coming of the kingdom of God.

See, the one thing that we see with the kingdoms of this earth is that they get progressively inferior to the ones before it. We know that many have been more powerful or more expansive than the ones before it. But one pattern we have seen over and over again in history, specifically in the BC era, and Ill explain why that is in a minute, is that the various kingdoms of the earth have gotten more and more morally inferior.

From Genesis 3 with  the fall in the Garden, to Genesis 6 with Noah and the complete degeneracy of man, then God starting over and almost immediately back to Genesis 11 with the tower of Babel.  We see this pattern over and over in the Old Testament. And we see it with Babylon and then on through Meda-Persia which conquered Babylon, and then the Greeks which conquered Meda-Persia and the Rome which conquered everybody. And we all know about the moral degradation within Rome.

But the Kingdom of God changed all that. And the Kingdom of God will change that. Its interesting. See, a little over 2000 years ago, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Came down from heaven, as we said, born not by man, and was thrown at the base of the statue of this world. He came down and utterly destroyed the kingdoms of this world, defeating death and sin utterly and completely. He has and will destroy every kingdom in this world. Gods Kingdom will stand forever and Christ is sitting right now on his throne in heaven, reigning over all of creation.

Jesus first coming demolished the kingdom of the worlds in sort of a behind the scene way. When Jesus walked this earth, he said, The Kingdom of God is at hand. Its not a future Kingdom, its here and now.  Now the battle is over.

But we look around in this world and we don’t see it yet. We see the world continuing to descend more and more into the moral degradation we see in the Old testament pattern. And that can make us misunderstand. That can makes us think only in the future tense when thinking about the coming kingdom of God. And then we get into all sorts of trouble, adding years to prophecies, especially in Daniel where the text doesn’t justify it. We start getting to focused in trying to identify the specific who’s and when’s and the details that God never told us the answers to.

There is a term, especially when referring the kingdom of God, and it’s the already and the not yet. The Kingdom of God is here and now. Its is already. Jesus Christ first coming brought it into this world. The Kingdoms of this earth have no eternal power or authority.

But, right now, they continue to have earthly power and authority. We are to be in submission to those authorities above us. And we are right now, struggling to find out what that really looks like today in a way that we haven’t had to yet, at least here in the United States. They will continue to try to grab more and more power. They will try to exert more and more authority. Moral Fabric of society will continue to deteriorate.

And then, at some undetermined point in the future, that the Bible tells us we cannot know, that not even the angels in heaven now, Jesus will, in language convenient to the analogy if not 100 percent accurate, be hurled out of the sky and will hit the base of the kingdoms of this world, destroying and disintegrating the powers and principalities that we are struggling against. All sin and evil and all kingdoms outside of the kingdom of God will cease to exist and we will move from the not yet, to the already.

 

 

Daniel tells the King, God is trying to get your attention. As powerful and as wonderful as you are, as much power as you wield, your greatness pales in comparison to what God wields in his pinky fingernail.  Babylon cant save you. Your power, greatness and authority cant save you. Only God can save you. Repent and turn to him. Bow to him and worship him as King.

 

The King had said back in verse 6 that whoever could tell him his dream and the interpretation would be showered in gifts and praise and given great honor. And that’s what Ol Nebby now showered on Daniel. Again, those parallels to Joseph in Genesis that you are supposed to be reading about, Daniel was now given a very high ranking government position, essentially the governor f the most important and powerful state within the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel did decline this to serve as the Kings right hand man, but was able to secure that position for his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, now referred to with their Babylonian names.

The last thing I want to point out this morning is the Kings response to the dream, Nebuchadnezzar declared that Daniels God was the God of Gods and the LORD of kings. He affirmed the power and greatness of God. But, what he did not do was to affirm the exclusivity of God. He was not the only God. This is not showing that he converted to Christianity. HE simply sees God as the strongest of all the gods around. He recognizes that God is sovereign over the nations, but it does not go further than that.

Don’t acknowledge God as powerful and important but fail to recognize the exclusivity of God. As we continue to point out, Jesus does not say in Johns Gospel that he is a way, a truth and a life. But he is instead, THE way, The truth and THE life. Don’t settle for almost Christian or partially Christianity, which does not actually exist. There is not shade of salvation. There is eternal life in Christ or eternal torment without. Recognize that God is sovereign and in control of everything, that he raises up and tears down Kings. That he is reigning as king now. His kingdom is already inaugurated, and we are just waiting for the final culmination.

Bow to Him, worship him and only him. Repent and trust in him. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Lets Pray.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 Life in the Local Church: Give Grace because we recieved Grace

1 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
Give Grace because we Received Grace

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 2. We are continuing through our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that I am calling, Life in the Local Church. The Apostle Paul is writing to his spiritual son, Timothy, whom he has been discipling and whom he sent to Ephesus to pastor and shepherd the flock, and to protect them from the wolves that are False Teachers.
Last week, we look at one of the ways that we deal with False Teachers. Essentially, as we made clear last week, as the last resort of dealing with them is that we are to separate from them, to remove False Teachers from the fellowship of believers in our local church. This is specifically the last resort for those who refuse to repent and those who work towards disunity and discord and continue to spread a False Gospel.
And again, the purpose for this seemingly extreme position is not to punish, it is not to repay evil with evil, but it is, as Paul wrote, so they would learn not to blaspheme. Jesus tells in Matthew 18 that every opportunity should be made for a person to repent and turn back to the true Gospel. When we confront someone, we do so lovingly, to bring them about to repentance.
With that in mind and established, lets start looking at this week’s text. Overall, 1 Timothy chapter 2 is going to be a look at what prayer and worship look like in the local church. This week we will be looking at 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translation in front of you. 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the holy, inerrant, infallible and immutable Word of God writes:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Many commentators say that Paul changes subjects at this point and moves on to something different than he was just talking about. I think that’s only partly true. He does indeed move on from talking specifically about false teachers and moves on to prayer and worship. But I think that Paul is also showing the other side of the coin, so to speak.
And so, therefore, First then. These are all ways that Paul transitions in his letters. Including what he just wrote and using that to give context to what he is saying next. We just went back over what Paul said last week, at the end, in the extreme, that is how we deal with False Teachers. In the meantime, this is how we treat people until that point.
Here’s a little bit of information, some behind the scenes info on your pastor by the way. I still have a kids sense of humor. I have 5 boys at home, their sense of humor is prevalent and will continue to be for several years. So I’m reading this passage and writing my notes and I realized something. The Bible is telling us to spit on people!
Bear with me for a moment. I know the list is slightly different in different translations, but it is telling us that we are to give all Supplications, All Prayers, all Intercessions, and all Thanksgivings for all people. The first letter of each of those words is SPIT! Now, don’t literally go out and spit on anybody, but if that is able to help you remember the list, then it’s a funny pneumonic device.
Now, in all seriousness. Paul is telling us something very difficult right here. We are to do these things FOR ALL PEOPLE! This is, of course, the people we like, our family, our church family, our co workers and the people we choose to have in our lives. But, maybe more importantly, and more challenging, this includes those we looked at last week, it includes those in a position of power over us in this world. It includes our enemies, our hated and those who do us wrong. It includes those who we chose not to include in our life.
Paul refers here to Kings and those in high positions. Often, and especially when Paul was writing this letter, those who assume power, those in physical power, most often will not believe in our orthodox Christian beliefs. Many who claim to, will not stand up to uphold or defend our orthodox Christian beliefs.
Caesars, such as Nero at the time this letter was written, kings, presidents, Generals, governors. All these positions are more likely to fight against our beliefs than for them. And sometimes it turns into physical persecution, such as we have not yet experienced, but Paul, Timothy and those in Ephesus would have been intimately aware of. Remember that Paul was writing this letter as a prisoner of the Roman Empire.
Are there some leaders who believe what we believe? Yes, I believe there are. Are all who say that they are, really believers, of course not. Even when they agree with us politically, that does not mean that their faith is real.
So many on both sides of the aisle claim to be Christians, claim to have faith, and yet how many do we see upholding and living what the bible says?
There has never been a president of the United States that has not identified themselves as some denomination of Christian or in the case of John F Kennedy, as Catholic. There have been 0 Jewish, 0 Muslim, 0 Mormon, 0 atheists that have been president. Kings and those in high positions will claim to be for us and with us, but rarely will share our beliefs and protect us.
And yet we are called to pray for them. And not just pray for them, but we are urged that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for All people and Paul specifies Kings and those in high places as those who especially needs these things.
Ligon Duncan says that the reason that Paul uses so many words for prayer here in this section is so we can’t just walk through our prayers. We can’t just tack on a quick prayer for them at the end of the things that matter to us. Do you really hear this? We are to be praying for AND TO BE THANKFUL for people like Caesar Nero. People Like Presidents Obama and Trump. We are to be praying for and giving thanksgivings for men like Governor Newsome.
I know that’s not easy to hear. And its even harder to do. But we go back to the Words of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells his followers:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We are called to a higher standard than we want to be called to. We don’t get to respond to people the way that they respond to us. The attitude that we have towards the world, towards false teachers, towards heretics, to those in power who oppose the church, to those who have personally wronged us; our attitude towards them is called by God to be one of supplication, one of prayer, one of intercession and one of thanksgiving.
We don’t have the right to respond with rancor. We don’t have the right, as followers of Christ, to respond in the same way that people treat us. Remember, our lives do not belong to us. When we surrender to Christ, our lives are not our own, but instead, we belong to Christ. We move from being slaves to sin, to be a slave to Christ.
Paul continues and says that we are to lead a peaceful and quiet life, one that is godly and dignified, for this is pleasing to God. This comment leads me to remember a few passages that Paul also wrote, all of them in 1 Thessalonians.
First, Paul twice mentions clearly what is the will of God in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Paul writes this:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[b] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Lest we think that the will of God is all about outward actions, Paul also says in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18:
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Gods will is not hidden. He has been very clear. What His word says, we are to do. Period. It may not be as detailed or specific as we want it to be. We may not see how it applies to each minute decision that we make, but that doesn’t mean that He has not already told us how to proceed. And when he says, to live a peaceful and quiet life, that should be our goal.
Now, how does this relate to verses 1 & 2? Well, I think it comes back to us having a right heart, and a right attitude. With us being in the right place spiritually, it will allow us to focus on what important. Doing God-glorifying, kingdom work for God. It will allow us to not get caught up in the quarrels, the hatred, the discord that comes from, first, false teachers teaching falsely, and second, from wanting others who have wronged us to “get what they deserve.”
Those issues, those attitudes and those actions continue to escalate unless they are dealt with and they most certainly are not peaceful. They are not quiet. They are not godly, and they are not dignified.
Those are the things that are pleasing to God, to God our Savior. To God who desires ALL people to be saved. This speaks to the love, compassion and mercy that accompanies the grace of God. But this does not negate the justice and wrath of God as well. We know that Scripture does not contradict scripture.
So, we know that this does not mean universalism, where false teachers teach that ALL people will be saved and all people will go to heaven, no matter what their faith and no matter what they belief about Jesus Christ. False teachers will focus on the love of Christ to the detriment of all Gods other attributes.
This also does not mean that God rejoices in the destruction of some, or that he was a blood thirsty monster. False teachers will often teach that God of the Old Testament and God in the New Testament, manifested in Jesus Christ are, essentially, two different gods. They will teach that the Old Testament god was an angry, vengeful God. And that Jesus came along in the New Testament and replaced that angry, vengeful god with love, mercy and grace. We know, however that The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, three persons. There is only one God and God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
And this also does not mean that we can be saved from any other source or method than by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. There are not many paths. There are not many gods who can forgive or offer salvation. It does not matter how sincere and genuine the faith of a Muslim, or a Hindu or any other religion is, without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no salvation. The gods of other religions are not all the same god with different names or seen from different perspectives. There is one God. And Has chosen to reveal himself through His Son Jesus Christ as recorded in Gods Holy Word, the Bible.
We can only be saved with knowledge and faith in the truth. The truth that Paul lays out right here in verses 5 & 6. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Again, Paul is using the truth to address and combat false teaching, both of his day and of our day as well. There is only one God. Not many like the Romans and various cultures from then worshipped. There is a God, unlike what many in our culture today say. And many today as well believe that the idea that there is only one God is egotistical of us. Specifically, the fact that we can claim to know who among al the gods that are worshipped out there is the true God. Who are we to say? Well its not us to say, its God himself who says, right here in his Word.
There is also only one mediator between God and men, and that is the man, Jesus Christ. One mediator, one path, one method. As we just addressed a moment ago, not many paths, many mediators, many saviors. This also means that there are not many go betweens. Saints are not mediators between us and God. Angels and spirits are not mediators between us and God. Pastors, Priests and ministers are not mediators between you and God. I do not have “an in” with God that you don’t have. I am not closer to God or having any sort of influence with him that requires you to come to me to pray to God.
There is but one. One commentary describes a mediator as “one who brings together parties who are out of communication, and who may be alienated, estranged or at war with each other.”
Well, if you know anything about human nature, about our sins, if you have read the Bible and seen what God has said about us, you know that this describes us and God. We are in rebellion against him and his sovereignty. Our sins have estranged us from Him.
But God. But God wasn’t satisfied with our estranged relationship and sent his son. He who was himself God, but he who was himself man as well. Again, Paul addressing false teaching here.
There were many teaching that Jesus was not actually a man. He was God, but he was not a man. He only appeared to be a physical human. His resurrected body was just an apparition, almost a ghost. Paul is emphasizing here that Jesus was indeed a man, a physical, literal man. This is essential for his mission to mediate, to bring together humanity and God, because he was both.
In order to bring us and God together, our sins needed to be atoned for. Because we were sinful, any atonement we tried to bring forth, would be woefully insufficient. If Christ was not a man, he would not be able to atone for mans sins. And because he was God, he was able to live a sinless life so that his atonement would indeed be sufficient, and not only for himself because he had no sin that needed atoning for, but sufficient for all those whom He has called.
The fact that Jesus was both God and man is absolutely essential to our faith. If a church is teaching that Jesus is not one or the other, it is a false church. One of the ways one church is teaching this today is by saying that while Jesus was here on earth, he was not God. He was only man while he was here. The teaching goes that this means that the miracles that Jesus did during his earthly ministry, we can also do as well, since he did them as just a man.
Please do not listen to or fall for this unbiblical heresy. If someone teaches this, run! This is a false Gospel that Paul, in scripture, in Galatians 1 curses to the depths of hell.
And so, Jesus, being able to atone for our sins, being man, gave himself as a ransom for all our sins. Marks Gospel uses Jesus own words that he came to be a ransom for many.
This is the truth that we are to come to knowledge of. This is the truth of salvation. This is the truth of God and his mission and his word. This is what Paul, Timothy and all believers have been called to believe and to share with others. It is what Paul and Timothy and I have been called to teach and defend from attacks from all directions. To teach in faith and truth.
Remember the grace that you have received, the gift of faith that has been given to you by God. And remember that if not for that grace, that we did nothing to deserve or to receive, that we are just as worthy of Gods wrath as those we don’t want to pray for and for those, we don’t want to give thanks for. But God.
What an amazing two words. Paul shows the importance of those two words in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2:1-7, he writes:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So when we think of those kings and those in high places that are antagonistic at best to our faith and the way we live it out, when we see those who are actively trying to work against our faith, we remember that God tells us that we are to not only pray, but pray honestly and earnestly and give thanks for them as well.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Let’s Pray

1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church- 1 Timothy 1:12-17 The Glorious Gospel

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Life in the Local Church

The Glorious Gospel

 

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.

Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, who he left in Ephesus to be the Pastor, the head shepherd over the flock of the local church there. And he is writing as a Call to Arms, as it were. There was much false teaching, many false teachers coming in and spreading lies and falsehoods amongst the believers in Ephesus.

And what Paul is going to show Timothy and us this morning is that the way to combat false teaching and false teachers, the remedy, the cure, as I said last week to the disease is the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or as he says it back in verse 11, the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

This Gospel is life changing and transforming and ultimately, is the Ultimate truth that brings Glory to God. Paul knows this from firsthand experience as he often shares as his witness and testimony. Before we read his letter to Timothy, I want to go back and look at Paul’s testimony. Turn over to Acts chapter 22, while we read, in Paul’s own words the story of God’s grace and mercy on him. Acts 22:3-21, Paul recounts:

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

 

Part of what makes this applicable to what Paul has already told Timothy was that we see that Paul was exactly what we saw him teach against last week. He was overzealous for the law. He misunderstood what the law was, and he strove for and demanded obedience to it. There was no grace, no compassion and no mercy. He was 1 Timothy verses 8-11, teaching that the law was the means and the way to salvation. He was that, until…

Until Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus, also recorded in Acts 9. Paul literally had Jesus knock him down, struck him blind and spoke out loud to him. It took all that for Paul to get the message. And in that, he experienced the life changing grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

And Paul writes about that here in 1 Timothy, verses 12-17. That’s our text for the week that I’m going to read for us now. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along with your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

So, in this section of this letter, we see Paul lay out the Glorious Gospel. And basically, we are just going to look at this section bullet point by bullet point. We start, as those who have also experienced the perfect and holy grace of God, that we are to Be Thankful.

We are to be thankful to God. Because the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is not about us and more importantly, its in no way because of us. Salvation is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8-10,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So not by us or from us, but all by Gods grace, through faith, which is also from Him in Christ, as the Bibles says and all to Gods glory, not our glory.

Paul also thankful for the strength that is given to us by God. Because, again, it is a gift from God. And the strength that He gives us is His strength, it is not our own strength. One of the clearest things that scripture teaches, and one of the hardest things for us to learn is that we have no inherent strength of our own. We are wholly and solely dependent on Him.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

And what Paul is specifically referring to here is the strength to be and to stay faithful. And faithful to the service that God has called us to. We see that again as well back in the Ephesians 2 passage we read a moment ago. That we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And God has done all of this, been this generous, been this faithful, given us these incredible gifts despite who we were, if we are now in Christ. We were sinners. If we are not in Christ, we are still sinners. Paul writes in Romans 3, All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. All of us are in need of a savior. We not only sinned and separated us from God, but the Psalms say that we were sinners even in our Mothers Womb. Romans 6:26 tells us, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And when Paul says that he received mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief, I want to make sure we are clear on what that meant. Make no mistake, the adage is still true with God, “Ignorance is no excuse for the law.” Paul is not saying, I didn’t know the law, so God took it easy on me. First, we all know the law, it was written on stone and given to Moses, and written on our hearts and written in nature, as we see in Romans 1. So, we know that he is not saying that ignorance of the law makes us innocent or righteous.

And so, what he was saying, is that “I did not know I was not righteous. I thought I was good enough to be righteous. I was ignorant to my unrighteousness. And despite that, even because of that, God gave Paul the grace and mercy that he did not deserve, instead of the wrath and judgment that Paul did deserve.

And that grace that God gave him resulted in the faith and love of Jesus Christ. Jesus actions, his incarnation, coming down from heaven and being born a human baby, his purposeful and intentional death on the cross, the forgiveness of sins, his resurrection and his ascension, even his yet to come Second Coming, all of these were done from an overflow of His love.

We know that, as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God didn’t need us. God wasn’t lonely and created man for our company. He didn’t create us because he lacked anything. He didn’t need us and still does not need us. Instead, out of the overflow of the perfect, complete love that eternally existed between the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, out of that overflow, His love poured out and flowed down and God created us out of that overflow.

And as we have seen, especially in recent weeks, love manifests itself in truth. Love speaks truth. Love reveals truth. And when Paul says, the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, he is not saying that other things he has said are not true or trustworthy. Instead, this is one of those rare statements that we can lift out of context and allow to stand on its on two feet. Paul is essentially writing this purposely as a stand-alone statement, a summary of what the Gospel is. What he is really saying is “Hey, if you read nothing else, I’ve written, read this statement!” Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

This was the purpose of Christs actions was solely to save sinners. That’s the Gospel. If you hear that Jesus mission, his main purpose, his goals and his priorities were anything other than to save sinners, then run. This could even be things that sound good. But the Gospel is simple, God became man to save sinners. Anything else is a false Gospel.

The Gospel is not physical healing. The Gospel is not miraculous signs and winners. The Gospel is not being happy, or being wealthy, or being healthy. The Gospel is not your testimony. The Gospel is not our political sides winning. The Gospel is not our nationality or ethnicity. The Gospel is not living moral, good upstanding lives. The Gospel is not being on the right side of History. The Gospel is not equality. Those are false Gospels.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Another important aspect is that we need to have a right and true understanding of who we truly are. We are sinners from birth. We are unrighteous. We are totally depraved. That doctrine, Total Depravity can be easily misunderstood. I like how one resource clarifies it, writing:

There is a common misconception regarding total depravity. Total depravity does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective or measured against a human standard. It does not even mean that man cannot do things that seem to conform outwardly to the law of God. What the Bible does teach and what total depravity does recognize is that even the “good” things man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). While man looks upon the outward acts and judges them to be good, God looks upon not only the outward acts but also the inward motives that lie behind them, and because they proceed from a heart that is in rebellion against Him and they are not done for His glory, even these good deeds are like “filthy rags” in His sight. In other words, fallen man’s good deeds are motivated not by a desire to please God but by our own self-interest and are thus corrupted to the point where God declares that there is “no one who does good, no not one!”

(https://www.gotquestions.org/total-depravity.html)

That is who we are when we are born. That’s who we are naturally, corrupted by our sin nature. That’s who we are without Christ. Paul says that he is the foremost of sinners. He is clear about who he was before Christ. We need to know who we were, and what our identity was. For many, this is still who they are as well.

But, if you are in Christ, if you have believed the Gospel and repented of your sins, then you are born again into the Holy Spirit and you are now a Child of God.

You are loved.

You are chosen.

You are Redeemed.

You are a saint.

You are Forgiven.

You are declared Righteous.
You have received mercy.

Paul then says why he received mercy. It is so that Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. Christ displays his perfection as an example to his followers. Yes, an example of how to act and how to live, but more than that.

If God could save Paul, with all that he did in persecuting the early church. If He could save the Disciples, who continually missed the point of Jesus teaching and abandoned Him in his time of need and after his death. If he could save sinners like you and I, then He could save anyone he chooses.

Again, having a right view of ourselves and having a right view of God is vital to understanding the Gospel. It is said that a high view of self leads to a low view of God. Invertly, a low/right view of self leads to a High/right view of God.

When we see him right, when we see who he is, his holiness, his righteousness, his goodness and love, when we see all of that correctly, as revealed to us in the bible, we can not help but cry out in worship. We cry out in exaltation and we lift up praises and cry out Glory to God!

Paul finishes his point here in this section of his letter, the passage we are looking at this morning by doing exactly that. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[d] Amen.

Its funny to me, this section by Paul, as he cries out in praises and shouting out Glory to God, it reminds me of the clip I played, I think it was Easter. An old Baptist preacher named SM Lockridge shouting, “That’s my king!” That kind of inspired this last section here.

Jesus is the King of Ages, the King of Kings, and the LORD of LORDS. He is at the top of all things and he is the highest one there is.

He is immortal. He always was, he always is, and he always will be. He is alive. He will live forever at the right hand of God the Father.

He is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is in all times, all places and all everything, all at the same time.

He is the only God. Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There are no other gods. Any other god that people call upon, they don’t exist. They are false gods. They are fallen angels disguising themselves as and with lights.

The Triune God is one and only one. And to him go all honor and glory. And as Lockridge finishes up: And Thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever
and ever and ever.
And ever and ever.
And when you get through all the forever’s, then
Amen!

 

For those of us who have been declared righteous and saved from eternal wrath and judgment, today is a day we rejoice, and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that we have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, once a Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettiness, all that stuff that does not matter, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.

We remember the sacrifice, the bloodshed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But We celebrate because Jesus is alive, and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

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

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished, we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

 

 

 

 

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Part 2 Gods Response to Sin

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Pt 2

Gods Response to Sin

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with and turn to the Book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. And if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one on the back table as our gift to you.

So, as we turn to Malachi, we are going to continue looking at the same passage we looked at last week. And the theme covering both weeks is “Response to Sin.” Last week, essentially, we looked at out own response to sin. We either justify it, both in ourselves and others, saying that God is ok with sin, because… whatever. Or we look around and figure that God is not going to respond to sin because we don’t see him responding to it around us right now.

But we see in this passage that God will indeed respond to sin, indeed he has to. But we will look at the two ways that the LORD responds to sin. One of the things that I didn’t mention last week the book of Malachi is especially showing us, and we say it some in Romans as well, we see it through out the scriptures, is that the Chapter breaks and the verse numbers are not inerrant. They were developed and inserted into the text much later. The chapter breaks were designed and inserted in the 1200s, and the verse numbers were inserted in the 15th and 16th centuries, for the Old and the New testament Respectively.

This section is a section that fits together overreaching the chapter break that was put in there. The Chapters and the verse are incredibly useful and they are a gift from God, to allow us to memorize certain sections of scripture even to locate and find certain passages easier than if it was just one long paper, book or letter with no markations. So, I also don’t want you to hear that the chapter and verse breaks are bad. Of course they are not. But, we can also remember that they are not infallible, it is the Words of God that are infallible.

So, we will go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:17-3:5 and we will look at what the Work of God says. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 2, verse 17, through Malachi chapter 3, verse 5.

God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi says:

You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

So, in chapter 2, verse 17, where we spent most of our time last week, we see how we, how you and I respond to sin, as I explained in the beginning. And starting in Chapter 3, verse 1, we see how God is going to respond to sin, and in fact, from our perspective of time, how he already has.

All through out the Old testament, God has been preparing his covenant people for a coming Messiah, a savior. One who would, as God foretold back in Genesis 3:15, one who would crush the head of the enemy.

See, because of the Holiness of God, sin is not something that He can overlook or ignore. It is an affront to his holiness, his character, his God-ness. RC Sproul refers to sin as Cosmic Treason. And so, something has to be done about it. One of the things we also see in Genesis 3, specifically in verse 21, it says,  And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Seems nondescript and innocuous enough, right?

But if we look at what’s going on here, we see that Adam and Eve had been naked and unashamed in the Garden. After their sin, the realized they were naked and they were very ashamed. Now, there’s a whole lot we could get into there, but the point we are looking at today is that God made them clothes to cover themselves. And what were those clothes made of? It says out of skins. It took the death of the animal. Adam and Eves sin caused the death of an animal just like it cause death to enter into this world. This is the first instance and example of our sin requiring blood, requiring death to atone for it, to pay for it.

So, our sin requires a blood payment to make things right. Paul tells us famously that the wages of sin is death. The problem is that our sinful blood, our death is not enough to cover our sins. And even if it was, it would only cover sins that had already been committed, it would not cover sins yet to come. So, after Adam brought sin in to the world, and through Adam we have all sinned, Romans 5 something or rather, we have become separated from the goodness and holiness of God. Our relationship with him is broken. And we have no ability to reconcile it, no hope of fixing our relationship, no chance of making things right with him. Gods holiness, his fairness demands that he respond to sin by punishing sin, by pouring his just and holy wrath out on it.

As John MacArthur puts it, “Fair would send everyone to Hell. You dont want fair, you want Mercy.” And we see Gods mercy even back in the garden when he made the clothes for Adam and Eve. Yes, Had to expel them from the garden, and yes, death was required, but don’t miss that even in that, God made clothes for them and provided them with the means to make clothes for themselves. God reached out in mercy and provided for them what they couldn’t provide for them selves.

And He has promised the One who could do for us what we cant do for ourselves. The One who would restore our broken relationship with God, who would save us from the consequences of our sin, who would be mercy to those who need mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament, God sent a series of prophets, speaking His Words. Most of their primary purpose was to call Israel to repent of their sins, to turn back to God and through that, they also prophesied and prepared the way for the coming savior.

Remember that Malachi is the last of the prophets that we have in the Old Testament. Now, Israel didn’t know that at the time, they didn’t know that Malachi would be the last one to hear from God for over 400 years. They didn’t know that the next prophet of God would be the one whose main purpose was to prepare the way, a prophet whom Isaiah 40:3, calls “A voice cries: in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

John the Baptist is this prophet that God was foretelling. He was a prophet in the order of Elijah. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and he was the one whom who introduce the world to the Savior. The Gospel of John records in John 1:29, John the Baptist saying, of Jesus, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Johns’ Message, as Matthews Gospel records is ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom at hand because The Son of God have arrived. Jesus of Nazareth was the promised, the foretold, the prophesied messiah and Savior. God became man to save sinners. Jesus said, in Mark 1:15; The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

One of the things we need to see and recognize is that there are two ways to read the scriptures. And some of the differences we can have in our theology can come from which of these two hermeneutics we use.

The question is, how do we understand, how we filter the things that are not crystal clear. Do we filter what we read in the New Testament by what the Old Testament says? Or Do we interpret the mysteries and the prophecies, the promises that God has made through what the New Testament says. I contend that the Bible itself and the writers of the New Testament use the New Testament to explain and interpret the Old Testament. And this explains parts of why Jesus did not look like what Israel was expecting the Messiah to look like. It helps explain the confusion over who the messenger was that would prepare the way for the Messiah and who John the Baptist was. It explains a lot about the blind eyes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders in the Gospels.

It also means that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Malachi writes that after the messenger, another messenger will come, the LORD who comes to his temple, the messenger of the covenant. He is coming, says the LORD of Hosts.

And he is coming, as the fulfillment of prophecy, as the fulfillment of types and shadows, in this case, as the fulfillment of the temple. He is coming because someone needs to be held accountable for our sin. Someone needs to pay the price of atoning for our sins. Some one needs to shed blood and pay with their life for our sins. That’s how serious our sin is. If we don’t understand that, we can never truly appreciate Jesus.

It is either us that has to be held accountable for our sin, or we give it all to Jesus. For those whom He has called, Jesus has already been held accountable for our sin. He has already paid the price for our sin. He paid by shedding his blood and dying on the cross, so that our sins may be forgiven. He rose from the dead to prove his dominion over sin and death in eternity past, present and future.

He is coming. In Malachi’s context, this was mainly talking about His first coming. His Incarnation. God became Man. Immanuel, God with us. He came, he lived, he never sinned though he was tempted in all ways. Hebrews 4:15, says it this way: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

One of the things we dont tend to see as much anymore in the church is Creeds and Confessions. These were used through out all the denominations of the coarse of the history of the church and were essentially used to boil things down to the essentials. In the minds of the people, or groups of people, of councils of learned men, they wrote these things to have a line in the sand, basically, against what is needed to be believe in order to be a Christian. I want to eventually find a way to incorporate some of these moving forward, but that’s neither here nor there and is also a long term goal. All of that to say that I love what the Nicene Creed says about Jesus, God the Son:

One Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And that last line there, he shall come again with glory. He will judge the living and the dead. And his kingdom will have no end. He will come again and when he does, none will be able to stand against him. When Jesus comes back, we will all stand before him and give an account for our sins. We will be separated, as we looked a few weeks ago, separated in to the sheep and the goats. Scriptures talks elsewhere about the wheat and tares, growing together, entangled and not able to be identified as separate or different. (Matthew 13:24-30) And in that parable, what is it that ends up separating them? Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:30:  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

And who can stand against him? None will be able to. From those of us who are falling on our faces, worshipping him, to those who thought they did enough good works to be surprised at their rejection, (Matthew 7:21-23) to those who have spent their lives fighting against him, Paul writes in Philippians 2:10-11:  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the LORD will come as a Refining fire. And thats a relief if we understand it correctly. The LORD is not coming as just any fire. John Piper describes the fire this way:

He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.

God is doing a good work in us. He is working all things for our good, that we may be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) All of his creation will be refined. This earth will be put through his refining fire. And all the impurities, all the sin, all the chaos and corruption will be burned away, leaving the New Heavens and the New Earth and God dwelling with his people, our concept of Heaven. Where will spend eternity in our glorified, physical bodies, (1 Corinthians 15)

And this is where we will enter into true, perfect, pleasing worship of God. Jesus tells us the woman at the well, in John 4:23&24: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Paul appeals to us in Romans 12:1, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is our offering in righteousness, this is our offering of Judah and Jerusalem that will be pleasing to the LORD. This is the side of mercy and grace of God. Jesus Christ, God becomes man to save sinners. To save you and I. And If you have been called, if you have been clothed in Christs righteousness instead of trusting in our own, we get to partake in this gift of eternal life with him.

But God isnt done here. Not all are called Children of God. Johns Gospel, chapter 1, verses 12 & 13:  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

God says that those who do not trust in him, who do not receive His Son will receive the full force of his wrath and holiness. Look at the last verse of our section in Malachi here, Malachi 3:5: Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Those who do not fear Him, or those who say that every who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD. Those who live in and love and partake in the sins of this world, the desires of our flesh. Our heart breaks for these and grieves theses people. These are often our close friends, our close family, people that are incredibly important to us, whom we love so much. And Revelation 20:15 says if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Hell is real, it is hot and eternity is a long time. Today, and hopefully every day, we beg, plead and pray, that if you have not received Jesus Christ, not recognized that he is the way and the only way to true, eternal life, please, now is the time. Please believe the Gospel, please believe in and receive in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and turn to the One True God. After this life, there are no second chances and we can never know when this life will end. Salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Your goodness, your morals, even your church attendance, cannot save you. Only Christ can do that. Please.

For those of us who have been delivered from the eternal punishment of our sins, today is a day we rejoice and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that w have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, every first Sunday of the Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettyness, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But, We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.