Daniel 9, pt 2 God of all Nations: Eternal Jubilee

Daniel 9

God of all Nations

Eternal Jubilee

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 9. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab on off our back table as our gift to you.

Last week, we look at the first 2/3 of Daniel chapter 9, specifically the prayer that Daniel prayed to God. What a prayer it was. Daniel confessed his sins and the sins of Israel and Judah. He recognized Gods glory, his sovereignty, his wrath, his justice and his mercy.

He recognized and placed his hope and faith in the covenant relationship with God and his people. We didn’t use that word too much last week, but we will touch on that some more this week.

Daniel knew that God had put Jerusalem into exile in Babylon. He knew that God had made a promise to restore his people out of Exile. He knew that that time was close, and he saw the beginnings of the fulfillment of that promise.

This sight, seeing the beginnings of the fulfillments of these promises did not let Daniel sit back and wait for God to finish his work. Instead, it sparked him to prayer more, harder and more fervently. It sparked him to action instead of passivity.

And we left off last week with the last recorded words of Daniels prayer as we pleads with God to hear his prayer, to act, to forgive and to fulfill his promises, not because of anything about Daniel or Gods people, but for Gods glory and His sake.

So that was in verse 19, so we will pick up this week in Daniel 9, starting in verse 20. We will start with verse 20-23. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 9:20-23, Daniel records:

 

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

 

 

May God Bless the reading of His Holy and Inspired Word.

 

What we see first, how most theologians and commentators read this passage is that before Daniel had even finished his prayer, Gabriel came flying in. Gabriel came down, sent by God, flying swiftly & interrupted his prayer.

And this is important. This is the context for all that we will be talking about this morning. The context for everything that Gabriel says and that Daniel records is in response to Daniels prayer. That is absolutely vital to understand if you want to have an accurate idea of what God is trying to communicate here at the end of Daniel chapter 9.

God hears and answers prayers. Gabriel is coming down and says that Your prayers for mercy were heard and this is an answer. I’m here to give you a vision about how your prayer will be answered.

Its important to see this. God hears our prayers immediately even when his answers are long in coming. He answers every prayer, even when we don’t see it, and even when it’s the opposite of what we prayed.

Now, this vision that we are about to read is universally cited as one of the most complex passages in scripture. Entire views on what is going to happen at the end times are built on this passage. But again, many of those are taking these verses out of context of the rest of the chapter, and specifically as an answer to Daniels prayer.

Here is what I want to say before we look at the next few verses. Many of us will disagree with each other. That’s ok. Your (and mine) Study Bible notes are written by human beings and are not inerrant. Commentaries and theologians are human beings and not inerrant. The pastors and preachers and teachers that taught you when you were learning the Bible are human beings, not inerrant. I am a human being and not inerrant.

I will touch on some of the things that some of you will think are the right view, but I will be sharing Gods Word and what I see as the most biblically consistent view of what these verses mean.

Now, lets read Daniel 9:24-27, the vision that Gabriel shared with Daniel:

 

“Seventy weeks[c] are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.[d] 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again[e] with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its[f] end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,[g] and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

 

 

So, Jerusalem specifically, and Judah as a whole, had been in exile for coming up on 70 years. We looked last week at a few of the prophecies that led to Daniel knowing that 70 years were the time frame here, specifically in Jeremiah. And remember that this is the context of Daniels prayer, saving and delivering Jerusalem from this exile. Gabriel, speaking on Gods behalf, plays off of those 70 years and says that 70 weeks have been decreed. A time period is coming relating to those 70 years that just passed.

Before we get into what the 70 weeks are, and there are numerous possibilities, we need to ask What is Gods Purpose in those 70 weeks? And thankfully, that’s an easy answer. What the 70 weeks are, that is difficult to suss out, but what they accomplish and bring about, God answers clearly and directly in the text.

He lists 6 things that are coming, that will be accomplish with this vision. 6 things he lists in verse 24 for us to look for in the fulfillment of this vision. Those six things are:

To finish the transgression

To put an end to sin

To atone for iniquity

To bring in everlasting righteousness

To seal both vision and prophet

And Finally, to anoint a Most Holy Place.

 

Think on those for a moment. Rest in those for a moment. What, or more accurately, who does that make you think of?

 

That’s right, Jesus Christ. This vision, this prophecy is about the one who would come and rescue true Israel from their spiritual bondage. This is the context of what is being said. One is coming, and just like we see with types and shadows in the Old Testament, we see God delivering national Israel our of their physical exile and bondage here after 70 years. We see that pointing to God sending Jesus Christ to deliver Spiritual Israel from their bondage to sin and their exile in this land after 70 weeks.

All of these things were accomplished with the Birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is also a reminder that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. He is the Word. All of the scriptures are about him. And so, we interpret Old Testament prophecies in light of what the New Testament teaches. This is easy when the New Testament says, like it does often in Matthews Gospel, “This was to fulfill the prophecy…”

But even outside of that, The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. And so, with this vision that Gabriel reveals to Daniel, the New Testament fulfills that in Jesus Christ.

And what’s important to see is that we may not see the ultimate completion of all these things yet, but they are already accomplish. Jesus death on the cross and resurrection from the dead show that he has defeated death and sin. Some will say, but death and sin are still in this world. That’s true. And there will be until Jesus comes back. That doesn’t mean that he won’t accomplish ending sin then. What Jesus accomplished with his first coming, he will consummate with his second coming. One commentator says that what Jesus achieved in principal, is still awaiting its final consummation.

So, when Jesus returns, the victory over sin that he accomplished on the cross will be fully consummated. We see partial fulfillments today. We see in those who have given their life to Christ, that the Holy Spirit has changed their hearts from one of stone to one of flesh. We have been freed from our bondage to sin and are now slaves of Christ. The change in our lives, the sanctification over the life of a believer is that process of death already being defeated, but not yet being fully consummated.

Next, we see that the 70 weeks were decreed to atone for iniquity, or to atone for sins. We know that Jesus death on the cross was done to atone for the sins of many. He paid the penalty for sins that we couldn’t pay. He paid it permanently where the sacrificial system of the Old Testament made temporary atonement.

But Christ came to pay a permanent substitute for our sins. Isaiah prophesied in that He would “pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:21, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

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

And a few verses later, 1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered[b] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

Simply put, Jesus Christ made atonement for sin and was our substitute in doing so. He fulfilled the prophecy with his death on the cross.

In doing so, He brought in everlasting righteousness. He did this and does this in two ways. First, by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus Christ and the work that he did, we are now clothed in Christs righteousness and we will be forever. His righteousness ins everlasting. Once we are clothed in it, we cannot and will not have his righteousness taken away. It is an everlasting righteousness.

And second, a battle that was fought on the cross and won with the resurrection, will be consummated and fully fulfilled when Jesus comes for the second and last time and wipes out all sin and death, all unrighteousness and established his Kingdom, a kingdom of everlasting righteousness.

Next, we are told that the 70 weeks are decreed to seal up both vision and prophet. Jesus sealed up the age of prophecy and sealed up visions as Gods last word. He sealed up visions and prophecy by vindicating them through fulfillment.

Sam Storms say it very well, writing:

The fifth purpose, ‘to seal up vision and prophecy, means that ‘the period of preparation and type, characterized by the visions which the prophets received and proclaimed, will be sealed up, because its purpose has been completed. It will no longer be needed, since the Messianic age has come, and its work is finished.”

 

The last of the purposes of the 70 weeks is that anoint a most holy place. During the temple times, the Holy of Holies was the inner chamber of the temple, it was the part of the temple where God dwelt. It was where his presence resided here on Earth.

The physical temple building is no more. It was destroyed for the final time in 70 AD when Rome sieged Jerusalem. But we see, through the things that Jesus said during his earthly ministry, that he is now the fulfillment of the temple. He is the Holy of Holies. And at his baptism we see in Acts 10:38, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.

Jesus Christ in his birth, life, death and resurrection fulfilled and accomplished each of those 6 things that Gabriel told Daniel would be accomplished.

And it is in that context, with the New Testament interpreting the Old Testament that we look at the rest of this passage. The Messiah is coming. Jerusalem will be return from exile. And that’s just the start.

Jerusalem’s exile would end, but their rebellious hearts would continue. And their continued rebellion would demand a final fulfillment as well. Jesus the Messiah came. Jesus the Messiah fulfilled all of verse 24. Jesus the Messiah was rejected and put to death. That rejection, the murder and execution of Gods son will come back in the last verse also.

Gabriel, speaking for God, uses the language and imagery that Daniel would at least partially be able to understand and uses the context of Daniels prayer when we decree 70 weeks.

Some believer that there is very precise mathematical and calendrical fulfillment and meaning to these 70 weeks. That some of the weeks are past and one of the years is still in the future. There is thought to be an indefinite gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. That the last week will start with the secret rapture and will be the Great Tribulation, ending with the 3rd coming of Christ, with the rapture being the second numerical coming, and the third being what scripture refers to s the second coming.

Through that lens of scripture, the last two verses of this chapter are seen to be about the anti-Christ and the war against the Jews and a 3 and ½ year pact with Israel.

I believe that this is not the case. I think that this throws out the context of the chapter, Daniels prayer, what Gabriel has already said.

First, I don’t see any biblical evidence for an indefinite gap between the 69th and 70th weeks, especially if there is not one between the first 7 and the middle 62. And no one argues that that gap does exist.

The number 7 is so often a symbolic number, standing for completion. 70 is that completion but amplified and perfected. IN Matthew 18:21 & 22, we read:

 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The ESV says 77 times, many versions, including the New King James, say 70 times 7. Peter knew that Jesus wasn’t saying that he only had to forgive 77 times. It was the number for ultimate completeness. When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness, his perspective was too small. God had a much grander view, on a much bigger scale.

In the same way, Daniels perspective here in this prayer, while valid and good and understandable, was much smaller than what God had in store. Gods plans include, not immediate gratification, but gradually coming to fruition, on a much grander scale that we can think or see.

The 70 weeks is almost universally understood to mean 490 years, with each week being 7 years. The original wording is not weeks, but seventy sevens. Just like the 70 years of Jerusalem’s exile has a problem figuring out the exact starting and ending yeas if its taken literally, there is no agreement on when the 70 weeks starts exactly or whether it’s literally exactly 490 years or rounded to 490 to fit the symbolism of perfect completion.

God gave the immediate and physical answer to Daniels prayer when, in 538, the year of or the year after this takes place, King Cyrus decreed that the Jews be allowed to return to Jerusalem. This makes the most sense to me about the start of the 70 weeks.

After 69 weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. Of this verse, Sinclair Ferguson writes: This event, mysterious to Daniel, becomes clear in the light of the Gospels. During this same period of sevens, Jerusalem and the rebuilt temple will be destroyed. The entail will be desolations.”

The destruction of the temple is what is being referred to when it says the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Physically on earth, this is the Roman General Tacitus. Spiritually, ultimately, we know this refers to the prince of this world, Satan himself.

Some see verse 27 referring to the antichrist making a covenant, a pact with Israel, then breaking it and waging war with them. I believe the context says the exact opposite. The he referred to here is still and always Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose from the dead, he shed his body and blood to bring to us a New Covenant. The Old covenant was one that was continually ratified and confirmed through sacrifice. The New Covenant was confirmed through one sacrifice, to end all sacrifices. Jesus Christ came as a ransom for many. He gave his life; he sacrificed his life so that many would live and have eternal life.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the temple and he is the final sacrifice. There will not be another temple and there will not be a restoration of the sacrificial offerings. This New Covenant is what has been instituted and accomplished through Jesus Christ and it will be finally, completely and perfectly fulfilled in his Second Coming.

Daniel, having read, as we saw last week, Jeremiahs writings, would have surely been aware of and have read Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:31-34 shows us a beautiful prophecy about the New Covenant:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

Iain Duguid writes about the covenant mentioned here in verse 27, being the New Covenant as well. He says:

It seems to me, therefore, most natural to see the covenant that is mentioned without further description in verse 27 as the new covenant, which will be confirmed in the final, climatic seven of world history. The seventieth seven is a kind of “jubilee” week, in which God restores all things to their proper state.

He continues:

IF that is correct, then clearly it is the Messiah who confirms the covenant with many and brings an end to sacrifice and offering. With the coming of Jesus into the world, and especially with his death and resurrection, the seventieth week has dawned. In Christ our jubilee trumpet has sounded, and the victory over sin and transgression has been won.

We are running long, but there is so much more that we can look at in these verses, I haven’t even barely touched upon the idea of the jubilee year that was the subject of our Scripture reading this morning and I think is the basis and foundation of the perfect completion of the 70 weeks and the 490 years.

If you have read and studied this passage and come to different conclusions than I, that’s ok. I hope you extend the same courtesy. I will finish up by sharing a story of one of the church fathers trying to figure out this passage. Duguid writes:

In 400 AD, one of the most brilliant scholars and linguists in the ancient church, the church father Jerome, wrote: “Because it is unsafe to pass judgment on the opinions of the great teachers of the church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed.” He then listed nine conflicting opinions on the meaning of the passage, declaring himself unable to decide which one (if any) was right.

 

 

Regardless on where each of us come down on this, we do know that Jesus Christ died come and die for our sins, that his death and resurrection did institute the New covenant because he said so.

Paul writes it most clearly in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:

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

 

That is what we celebrate every month, usually on the first Sunday of the month. Because I know the subject this week, I decided to wait till this week. We come to together to remember. Communion doesn’t save us. It’s not magical. It doesn’t wipe our sins away and it does not make us righteous. It is done in remembrance of what Christ did for us. IT is Gods grace through our faith in Christ that puts righteousness on us. It puts Christs righteousness onto us.

Like we did last month, we are going to do things a little bit different, due to taking some precautions for COVID-19. 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 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 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 2:1-23 God of All Nations: God Grants Wisdom

Daniel 2:1-23

God of All Nations

God Grants Wisdom

Good Morning Bangor! As you are listening along or reading along with us here this morning, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 2. To start off first, before we get into any of Daniel 2, After we are finished with this sermon, I am giving you a suggestion homework assignment. I want you to read Genesis chapters 40 & 41 and note the parallels between Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon.

So, as you may have surmised, chapter 2 here will show us Daniel interpreting the Kings dream for the first time. And within that, what we are going to see is God giving wisdom and knowledge to those whom he desires to. Now, I mentioned last week that some of these chapters are pretty long, and this is one of those examples. So, instead of reading the entire thing in one setting, we are going to break it up as we go through it.

I do plan to get through verse 30 this morning. Before we get into that, a few reminders from Chapter 1. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire siege Jerusalem and God gave Jerusalem into his hands. He brought out many captives into exile into the land of Shinar and picked the best and the brightest of the exiles and put them into re-education and re-training schooling. Their names were changed, their religion was replaced with the religion of Babylon. They were taught the language and the writings of their new culture and they were seduced with comfort and fine foods and drink into conforming to this new culture and leaving their old behind. Soon, the idea was, they would forget they were Jewish exiles and they would think of themselves as Babylonians.

Daniel and three of his friends have already shown themselves to be different than the rest.  They showed that there was a balance we can strive to maintain between serving the community that we are placed in, even with it being quite hostile to our true identity, and not forgoing the commands and standards that God has set before us. Daniel would not allow himself to be defiled. His friends were right there with him, standing faithful to God. God granted them extra wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and for Daniel, the ability to interpret visions and dreams.

So, with all that said, lets go ahead and jump into the first block of verses. We will start with verses 1-11. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we go through these and the future verses. So, Starting with Daniel, chapter 2, verses 1-11, Daniel records:

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So, they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic,[a] “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 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.”

 

May God Bless the reading of his Holy and perfect Word.

 

 

So, the first thing we see is that this takes place in the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Now, based on the variety of ways that the different cultures kept records, it is equally likely that Daniel was already completed with his 3-year training or that he was towards the end, at least the second half of his training. We know that at least he had already appeared before King Nebuchadnezzar along with his friends and impressed him with wisdom and knowledge.

Either way, not very long after the exiles arrived from Judah, after the Babylonians sieged Jerusalem and had it handed into their hands by God, the King started having bad dreams. Or A bad dream to be exact.  And it was troubling him. It was causing him to not get any sleep. It got bad enough to the point that Nebuchadnezzar gathered all his magicians, his sorcerers, all the wise men and magi, he gathered them all together.

He was convinced that these were more than just dreams. In most ancient cultures, and most certainly in the near east during that time, the common belief was that the gods communicated to people through their dreams. Maybe more clearly, dreams were communication from the gods. So, the King was driven by the need to know, to find out what his dream meant. A right understanding was absolutely vital for him.

So, he gathered the wise men and magicians and told them, I’ve had this dream and I need to know what it means. After he says that, in the middle of verse four, we see that the original language turns from Hebrew and continues in Aramaic. The book switches from a focus on the Jewish exiles and what happened into Jerusalem and turns to bigger world view implications.

So, the wise men told him, “Tell us your dream and we will tell you what it means.” Seems to be an appropriate response in my opinion. You want to know what your dream means, then tell me your dream and let’s figure this out. Would you have expected a different response?

Nebuchadnezzar, however, has a different view. He told them, “You will tell me both the dream and the interpretation, or you will die horribly and painfully. And if you do, then great rewards will come to you.”

Its important to remember, despite the kind treatment we see of Nebuchadnezzar, especially to Daniel, this was not a kind man. He was a harsh and cruel man often times. These wise men would have had no doubt that he would have followed through with his threat.

And we also see that it is clear that he was skeptical of the abilities of these wise men. This was a broad collection of religious and spiritual backgrounds, there were many different gods represented in this court. But this dream was not from one of those gods. This dream was from God. From the true God. And you can just see that things are subconsciously starting to occur to the King. He gathered these wise men for a reason, to cover his bases with as many different gods as possible, and yet, he still doesn’t trust that the servants of these gods can actually answer his desire to know the meaning of these dreams.

That’s a part of why he is challenging these wise men. Because he doesn’t trust the answers he will receive. There are also some who speculate that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t fully remember the details of his dream. And I get that. How many of you have had dreams and once you wake up the vividness of them fades, the details fall away, or get fuzzy and cloudy. The longer it goes, the less you actually remember of it. You might remember some of the points, or the big picture or whatever, but a lot of it fades away or the course of time. So, I don’t know if that’s the case with ol’Nebby here, but It also wouldn’t surprise me if that played a role in the way he handles the wise men and his court.

So, they try again, “Tell us your dream and we will tell you what it means.” And the king responds, “You are trying to buy time and you will lie to me. Tell me both the dream and the interpretation or you all die!”

And finally, some honesty from these magicians, enchanters, sorcerers. They cry out, “No Man can do what you are asking! Only the gods could do this! And the gods don’t dwell with man!”  They were saying that the gods won’t tell us that, they are the only ones who know these things. What god will dwell with and communicate like that with us? We will see Daniel answer this very question coming up in a bit. I’m sure you all listening can answer that question here and now too.

So, the wise men give Nebuchadnezzar their answer, and I’m sure they didn’t want to tell him that, but they were given no choice. They couldn’t deliver what the King was demanding from them.

 

From there, lets continue with verses 12-23:

Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared[b] to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:

 

 

 

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

 

 

So obviously, based on the answer he received, the King was not happy. In fact, he was furious. He was going to follow through on his threat. He ordered that all the wise men, all the magicians, all the astronomers, enchanters, magi, sorcerers, all of them, all of them were to die. This included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

One commentator notes: Again, notwithstanding the perilous situation and the utterly unreasonable demands and decree of Neb, Daniel refused to panic. He neither despaired nor ranted. His behavior is marked by tact and common sense. There is a place for diplomacy.

Now, notice verse 14. Daniel, with prudence and discretion he asked Arioch why this was happening.  He didn’t start screaming and crying about the injustice. He didn’t protest, he didn’t march, he didn’t boycott. He didn’t kick and scream and shout. He asked with prudence and discretion, “Why is the decree from the King so urgent?”

In all likelihood, Arioch was the executioner. This was very likely the guards gathering everyone up to be executed. This was not just an announcement that this was going to happen, but this was the actual gathering of the wise men up to kill them. And Daniel remained calm to inquire what the reason was.

I wonder what was going through Daniels head when he heard that the King needed a dream interpreted.    We saw back in chapter 1, verse 17 that God gave Daniel that gift, that skill. He had to be smiling on the inside. Might he have been almost jumping for joy? Obviously, we see that Daniel always gives God the credit and the glory, but he might have been thinking, “Oh, I’ve got this!”

So, Daniel, whatever his emotional state, asks Arioch if he can appear before the King so that he can provided that dream interpretation. It was kind of like being on death row and getting a last-minute stay from the governor. God here directly intervened and saved Daniels life and soften Arioch’s and likely soften the Kings heart towards Daniel here. Daniel was granted his request to go before the King at an appointed time, possibly as soon as the next morning. We see the contrast. The wise men before the king asked for time and the king sentenced them to death, convinced they were going to make up lies. Daniel asks for a bit of time and its granted, saving everyone’s life. Gods sovereignty, control and power and faithfulness is on full display in that situation.

Daniel goes back and tells his friends, which, by the way, are still referred to by their Hebrew names. Daniel tells his friends the situation, why they were going to die and the opportunity to change their circumstances and they all start praying.

It rings true in all circumstances, the more people you can get praying for a situation, the better, We certainly saw that this week in our church family as we had  a dear member of the church suffer a stroke. Its terrible timing in all of our eyes, because with the hospitals on lock down due to COVID-19, his wife can’t even visit him. So, we immediately sent the information we had out of the prayer chain. The little bit \of information that has come out so far is relatively good news. No facial drop, no limb paralysis, and we will see on the rest. We know that our prayers were heard. We know that God responded. It was terrible timing by human eyes, but we also know that God’s timing is perfect, even if we don’t know how or why. What comfort we have that when we are going through the things that we end up going through, that our church family is praying with us and for us and that God hears those prayers.

And God does hear our prayers. Daniel and his friends immediately started praying and God heard their prayers. God answered those prayers and he gave Daniel a dream that revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the interpretation. They prayed and God answered.

 

 

Daniel, when his prayers are answered, immediately does what should come first for all of us, but often we neglect or fall short on. He lifts up praises and thanksgiving to the LORD.

Let me reread Daniels blessing here, verses 20-23:

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

 

 

Amen, right? God is God, that’s the theme of what Daniel is saying. This specific point we will get into more next week at the beginning, but God is God and the Babylonian gods are not. God is powerful. They are useless and worthless. God is in control. They can do nothing. Blessed be His name forever and ever.

Daniel praises God and lifts up his wisdom, his sovereignty and his goodness. One commentator states that the wisdom here is, “not something human beings achieve, but something they receive by God.”

Wisdom here in this chapter of Daniel in general and in this thanksgiving psalm lifted up by Daniel specifically is one of the major points brought up by many, many commentators and theologians. And wisdom, true wisdom is only and fully from God.

We know where our wisdom comes from, Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. We look to God and him alone as our source of wisdom. We are not guessing; we are not covering our bases and we certainly better not be trusting or believing in ourselves.

We don’t look or seek for our wisdom from our work, or from politics, or from our nationality, or from our achievements, or from our church attendance. We don’t even seek it from our Bible Knowledge, even though, if we have a right understanding of the Bible, we know that Bible Knowledge helps grow our wisdom.

Daniel also mentions that God changes the seasons, he has control over nature and the sun and the stars themselves. This is pointed directly at the wise men and sorcerers of Babylon who were highly into astrology, astronomy and the stars.

God also sets up and removes Kings. This is referencing the interpretation of the dream that we will look at next week. I love what Sam Storms says about this when he writes:

Note well: Daniel makes these affirmations of God’s sovereignty in the context of the domination of the Jews by Gentiles! In other words, God not only controls the history of his own people (whether Israel or the Church), but also of the ‘secular world as well. And the oppression of his own people is no indication that he has lost control or that he is any less sovereign than when his people are safe and blessed.

 

The last point we will touch on in Daniels thanksgiving is in verse 22, where Daniels says of God, he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

TO me, this brings to mind the beginning of Johns Gospel. John 1:1-5, he writes:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And then in John 1:9:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 

 

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He is God become man. He is Immanuel, God with Us. He is perfect wisdom personified. He came and did what we couldn’t do, live with perfect wisdom, in perfect communion with God the Father, never once leaving His Will. He lived the perfect life that we are called to live, but wholly unable. Even though that’s exactly what we are called to by God.

Jesus gave up his life, to overcome the darkness, to receive the wrath of God, the punishment for our sins. He died on the cross so that we could be forgiven, so that we could receive everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.

As Iain Duguid says: “Simply living his life wisely would not have saved Daniel by itself. After the decree for his death went forth from the king, nothing but the direct intervention of God could save him.

And that’s a great point, because similarly, if we live our lives simply based on the moral teachings, the wisdom that the intellectual wisdom that we get from the Bible, that won’t save our eternal lives. Nothing but the direct intervention of God himself, come down from heaven, born a man, nothing but Jesus Christ himself can save us.

Trust in Him and repent of your sins. Submit yourselves to his wisdom, his grace and his love. He came to give us life and life abundantly. But only through faith in Him and him alone.

 

Let’s Pray.

Passover Sermon: Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon
Exodus 12 and Luke 22

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.
Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night. This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception. All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.
Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.
To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.
So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.
Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.
Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.
The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.
We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)
God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.
I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.
God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.
I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.
This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.
Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.
Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.
Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.
While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.
The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.
Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.
He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.
Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.
We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.
For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.
And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.
Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?
Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.
Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…
But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.
These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.
For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.
My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.
We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?
Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.
Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.
Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.
The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.
And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.
This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.
But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

Let’s Pray

2 Timothy 2:14-19 Life in the Local Church: Words Mean Things

2 Timothy 2:14-19

Life in the Local Church

Words Mean Things

 

          Good Morning! Please turn in your Bibles with me to 2 Timothy, chapter 2. Before we get started, thank you all for the prayers, the groceries and the love that you all sent out to us over the last two weeks, and especially to Dave for covering my teaching and preaching duties here. We are praying that none of you get hit with this major bug that we got.

So, we are going to pick up where we left off a few weeks ago, in 2 Timothy 2. I’ll give a brief review and then we will jump into this week’s text. So, Paul is coming to the end of his life, imprisoned in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar and tradition says he was beheaded after being found guilty from that trial. He is writing this letter to his young protégé, his child in the faith, as his last warnings, his last encouragements and his last directions to the local church.

Back in verse 8, he tells Timothy to Remember Jesus Christ, truly man and truly God. Remember the Gospel, that God became man to save sinners. Verse 9 is powerful where he declares that despite Paul being chained, bound in prison, the Word of God is not bound! Paul finishes up that section by sharing a faithful and true saying, likely quoting an early, well known hymn, verses 11-13:

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

 

What a wonderful amazing statement! No matter what happens, HE remains faithful and HE cannot deny himself.

 

So, on that note, we will go ahead and read the next passage of scripture in this letter. I was originally planning on going through the rest of the chapter, hence the verses up on the screen, but we are only going to go through a couple of verses this morning. We will be reading through 2 Timothy 2, verses 14-19. I’m going to be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along with your preferred translation.

2 Timothy 2:14-19, Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the very Words of God, tells Timothy:

 

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,

who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

Paul starts off telling Timothy to remind them of these things. Remind his congregation of the things that Paul is teaching Timothy and remind his congregation about the things that the faithful saying and the hymn teaches. We need that constant reminder. We are forgetful people. We need to remind ourselves each and every week. This is why scripture is constantly saying “Remember what you have been told,” Remember what you have been taught,” We have to be reminded often.

But we also, have you noticed this about yourself, because I’ve noticed it about me, we spend a lot of time trying to remind those around us instead of reminding ourselves. “Hey, Hey, did you hear that?”

We often listen to sermons and instead of thinking of how it applies to our own lives and how we can grow and glorify God, we think things like, “oh good, So and so really needs to hear this.”

We sometimes try to play the part of the Holy Spirit, maybe we nudge our spouses when we think there is something they need to hear. But when we do that, we can too easily undo a lot of what the Holy Spirit might be doing and working on inside the other person. We are very poor imitations of the Holy Spirit.

Or sometimes we are reading our Bible and we come along a passage that we ignore the personal application and growth and we think, “See, if only so and so would read this passage!” We are so often more worried about being right and showing others that we are right, instead of seeing what Gods Word has for us.

But what does Paul say here? Remind them constantly of Jesus. Remind yourself of the Gospel. And don’t quarrel about words. Quarreling does nobody any good, except for the enemy. Because quarreling causes hurt to the hearers. It causes division, it leads to gossip and slander, even when we don’t realize it. These are very common characteristics of false teachers, as one example. That is one of the key things that Paul is warning Timothy about. And those who stir up and cause controversy and division, they are to be dealt with and avoided.

 

 

 

2 Timothy 2:15 is a great verse to memorize if you haven’t yet. There is so much packed into this verse, we are going to barely scratch the surface, I’m afraid. We start with the charge that Paul gives, that we are to do our best to present ourselves as one approved.

We are to stand tall, holy and blameless before God. And not because of anything about us, but because He has made us Holy and blameless in His sight. We see again the last part of the faithful saying Paul just shared, that even in our unfaithfulness, He remains Faithful. That’s his character, that’s who he is, and he cannot deny himself.

No matter what, he remains faithful. And because of who he is and his faithfulness, we can stand firm in his promises and we can stand tall, a worker for God. We have no need to be ashamed. But we will be told that we have reason to be ashamed.

Those of us who stick with the Word of God and believe what it actually says and that it is in fact the word of God, we will often be called names and made to feel that we should be ashamed. We will be told that we think we are better than others. We will be told that out views and thoughts are bigoted, intolerant and on the wrong side of history. We will get called self-righteous and hypocritical.

Those things are designed to make us feel ashamed. But we know the truth. We are not better than anyone else. All sin removes us from Gods grace and places us under Gods wrath. And we are all sinners, worthy of his judgment. But we know Romans 5:8, that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know that have done nothing to make ourselves right in Gods eyes, but instead we have been saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are standing tall, saved by God, brought into his family by him, now children of God.

Another way that False teachers especially will try to shame us is by saying that we get the word of God wrong. They will say that we take the Bible too literally. They will say that we use the Bible to back up our own prejudices and exclude groups of people, that we divide or keep out certain groups of people or shame people who are in certain sins and sinful behaviors.

Just this week, one False Teacher was responding to a statement that we need to follow not just the parts of the Bible we like but follow the whole Bible. Her response was, “C’mon, nobody really obeys the whole Bible.” What kind of message is that to send out on social media? Its certainly not a biblical message. Now, do all of us always follow everything the Bible says every single second of every single day? Of course not. But we are called to be Holy. We are called to obey his commands. We are called to pursue righteousness. This false teacher’s point was not that we all are sinners in need of grace. Her point was that those who call people to repentance are not being loving and instead are being sexist, intolerant, racist and bigoted.

False teachers accuse us of twisting the word of God for our own purposes and instead it is they who twist Gods word in order to lessen who He is. They take away from some of his attributes, his holiness, his judgment, his hatred for sin. And they say that God couldn’t possibly mean what it looks like he says, because that would not be very nice. That would not be inclusive and that would not affirm what they have already decided is right and loving.

The truth is, the more faithful we are to the Word of God, the more we will be attacked for it. And we will be attacked by those who take scripture out of context. Those who make scriptures about themselves instead of about the Holy, all powerful God of the universe. Those who don’t believe that the Bible is Gods Holy and Inspired Word, infallible, inerrant and sufficient. Those who, despite their words, by their fruit, do not believe what Paul writes just about 1 chapter from know, that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16 & 17)

          They have no respect for the holiness of God. They have no respect for the truth of Gods Word. They twist scriptures for their own purposes. The New Testament is ripe with Scriptures about False Teachers within the church, what to look out for and what the consequences of them are. Here are just a few of them.

1 Timothy 4:1: Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons

1 John 4:1-3:  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

2 Peter 2:1-3:  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

          And the last one, Jude 4: For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

But if we truly trust the Word of God in all things, if we have the utmost respect for His Word and we hold it up as the very Word of God as it proposes to be, that means that every single, solitary word in here is put in here specifically and purposely by God.

It means not just the letters in Red, though it includes that as well. Not dismissing Paul’s letters and his teachings because his words are “not the words of Jesus.” When in very fact, Jesus is the Word of God. Johns Gospel starts out with that fact. John 1:1. He writes:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And then John 1:14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.

          The Bible is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Every Word in the Bible, no matter who wrote it or who spoke it are in fact the Words of Jesus himself, the Very Word of God.

 

Paul calls us, maybe charges us is a better way to say it, he charges us at the end of verse 15, to rightly handle the Word of truth. And that means believing and following every Word of what the Bible says.

The Word of God is what guides us to holiness. Its what teaches us and leads us to our sanctification. Its how God speaks to us today. Hebrews 4:12, the author tells us for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

          Straying from the Word of God, on the other hand, leads to irreverent babble. It leads to more and more ungodliness. And rejecting the authority and sufficiency of the Bible is a slippery slope that is incredibly difficult to come back from.

Paul says that this type of thing spreads like gangrene. When we talk, our words spread like wildfire. I use that descriptive word purposely because we all have seen firsthand how quick that is. It’s not an exaggeration to say that words spread that quick. True or false, right or wrong. The problem is that false lies are often more believable than the truth. And often, based on our own, human wisdom and understanding, we want to believe the lies more. Romans 1:18, says that we suppress the truth with our unrighteousness.

And the lies and the gossip and the slander and the divisive talk spreads and it travels quickly. And it takes people down with it. Gossip and lies are sins because they go against the truth. They are anti truth. God is Truth. He cannot lie. He cannot deny himself. So, for us to lie, for us to deny him and his words is to sin against God.

 

Paul gives a specific example of one case of lies and false teaching going on in the church in Ephesus that are spreading through the body if Christ. Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the Second coming had already occurred. They were saying that the resurrection had already occurred. They were teaching people that the only resurrection that takes place is the spiritual resurrection that takes place at the moment of salvation, when we move from death to life. They were teaching that there is no future, physical resurrection. This is of course, refuted in many passages in scriptures, including but not limited to Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and in 1 Corinthians 15. But this false teaching was spreading, and it was upsetting the faith of many in the congregation.

 

But, BUT… and the Bible has a lot of Big Buts, some of the greatest parts of the Bible hinge on a But. Look at Ephesians chapter 2, I want to read verses 1-10 so that you get the full context of what Paul is saying, but I’m just going to read verses 3-5 and encourage you to read the rest on your own. Ephesians 2:3-5: 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] 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—

One more real quick, 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9-11: do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

          But God…Two of the greatest words God put into the Bible.

Despite all the lies running wild in this world, despite the false teachers undercutting the Word of God, Despite all the attacks on the authority of Gods Word and his laws and his commands. Despite all of that, we see in verse 19 here,  But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

 

          Gods firm foundation stands. The true church, Gods elect, his people are what he builds upon that firm foundation. The foundation is Jesus Christ. It is, as we read in Matthew, built upon the statement that Peter makes that Jesus Christ is Messiah, the LORD, the Son of God, God himself. Upon that rock, he builds his church.

The LORD knows who are his. Those of us, being saved from our sin and from the wrath of God, by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, not works or anything about us, but faith alone in the foundation of all of it, the cornerstone, Jesus Christ alone. Those of us who are called by the Holy Spirit, bearing His seal. We stand firm on his foundation, unashamed of our past, because it is forgiven, covered in Christs righteousness, because we have none of our own.

 

Part of being his, is that everyone who knows the name of the LORD, everyone who is his, depart from iniquity. Paul well get more into this later in this chapter, we are to mark and avoid false teachers and those who spread division and deception.

We are to walk upright and blameless by strength of God.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Amen.

 

 

Let’s Pray.

1 Timothy 3:14-16 Life in the Local Church: The Purpose of the Local Church

1 Timothy 3:14-16

Life in the Local Church

The Purpose of the Local Church

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible, there are some on the back table designed to be our gift to you. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we are calling, “Life in the Local Church.”

Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, who was pastoring the early church in Ephesus. And he wrote to encourage, challenge and instruct Timothy on how to deal with some of the issues in the local church. These letters ended up being Gods inspired Word about what the local church should look like.

As we finish up Chapter 3 here, Paul has, for now, finished talking about prayer, worship, and church offices and what those things look like in the local church. And for these couple of verses he is turning his attention to three very interconnected things. First, he will address why he is writing this letter to Timothy. Second, he will the purpose and mission of the local church. Last, he will give a poetic summation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

So, we will read this week’s text before we go any further. We will be reading 1 Timothy 3, verses 14-16. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation that you should have in your hands. Once again, 1 Timothy 3:14-16. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God Himself, writes holy scripture, telling Timothy:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[e] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated[
f] by the Spirit,[g]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

 

          And all his church says Amen!

You know what’s interesting to me? Gods perfect timing. Paul is writing a letter to Timothy. A letter that survived many, many years. A letter that was inspired by God to be the very Word of God. A letter that we now have written and copied in the Bibles you are holding in your hands. And he tells here why he wrote that letter.

Paul wanted to come and talk to Timothy in person. He was trying to come to him, but what Paul was telling Timothy was much too time critical to wait for Paul to physically get there. And in that time, there were no phones. Paul and Timothy couldn’t just call each other and talk about what’s going on. There was no email, no skype, no way at all of communicating except through face to face contact or via letter.

And this is what I want to point out here. If Paul had access to any of those other forms of communication, we would not have these letters in the Bible. We would have an incomplete scripture. There would have been no record of what Paul wrote to Timothy and we would not have Gods entire word to us today.

But God knew what he was doing, God had his perfect timing and orchestrated it so that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy and we know have the full council of God’s Word, infallible, inerrant, immutable, sufficient.

This is not todays big point, but someone may need not hear this. God orchestrates life in a way that brings glory to himself 2000 years later. You may think you should be doing something that you think would benefit the kingdom of God and bring glory to God, but he is closing that door and you can’t understand why. Trust him anyway. Paul wanted to go see Timothy but had to write this letter instead so that we could read it all these years later.

But, back to the text, the reason that Paul wants to go see Timothy is to share “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” This is the same idea that is behind the title of our series, “Life in the Local Church.” Paul has already mentioned prayer, worship, Church offices, the Glorious Gospel, church leaders, along with authority and submission.

Paul is going to transition back into talking about combatting the false teaching that is pervasive in the early churches back then, and in our churches today. But first, notice something else.

What is the church? Now, we all know the saying, “The church is the people, not the building.” And there is truth to that. The point is that the building is not something to be worshiped. The goal with that saying is that we don’t shirk our responsibility to live out the Gospel when we leave the church after Sunday mornings.

But Paul makes it clear here that the Church is the household of God. The Church is the local body of Christ, gathering, and fellowshipping, equipping the saints, teaching the Word of God, worshipping the one true Eternal God. Is there more than that as well? Of course. But it is never less than what Paul is saying. The church is the equal mixture and additions of the body itself, where we meet and us doing what God has called us to.

Now, of course, where we meet is not important. In church buildings, in local granges, community centers and halls, in houses across the world, in wide open spaces, in campgrounds, in parking lots, in big stadiums, wherever. Where we meet, as the body of Christ is the household of God, the church of the living God.

And the household of God, the church of the living God, is to be a pillar and a buttress of truth. Those words mean literally to provide support. The church is Gods chosen instrument to fight against the False Teaching in this world and to share and spread and teach the truth of the Gospel. RC Sproul writes that, “the truth of the Gospel is found in and sustained by Gods Church.”

          So, Paul is doing two things here. He is showing us how important it is to know how to live and how to act in the local church, the household of God. And that’s why we see these instructions on what prayer and worship should look like. That’s why we see the restrictions and qualifications on who is to lead and have authority in the local church. Paul is not trying to be a micromanager. He is not trying to be a control freak. He is saying, this is important because this is how God designed it and this is His house!

That’s why Paul will always teach and affirm justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. That works play no part in our salvation in any way shape or form. But he will also in his letters, often talk about the way to live rightly, follow the commands and directions of God, to live by the moral law that God has passed down. Because that is how we are to live and act in the household of God. It’s a respect thing. It’s a part of our worship. Our entire lives, everything we do, think and speak are, whether we want them to be or not, an act of worship. It may be worship to the living God, or it may be worship to the gods of this world, but it is worship.

Second, Paul is showing us how important it is to have right teaching, right doctrine, right understanding of the Word of God. He is showing where that truth comes from and what our role in it is. We are to provide support for the truth that goes out from amongst us. This is why Paul started out so strong against the false teaching that is going on in Ephesus. And this is why he will be talking against the false teaching again coming up.

One of the things we can take from this is that we need to be in a local church for us to be able to stand against the false teaching. The church body, the local church, is a pillar and buttress of the truth. If we are not a part of a local church, we are isolated from the truth.

Watching preachers on TV or listening to them online or on the radio, if they are biblically solid, can be a great resource for growing our knowledge in the LORD. I will caution you that many who are on TV or on the radio are indeed NOT biblically sound. But ones that are can be a great resource. However, if that is the extent of your “Church participation,” you are in grave danger of being led astray from the truth.

The same thing is the case if you are a part of a church that is to far away. I’ve heard of pastors and their families who “pastor” churches that are over 50 miles away from where they live. If you live that far away, you can’t shepherd the flock. You are a weekly guest speaker at that point. And the congregation doesn’t have any one they can go to when they need to.

This is, of course, not to say that you have to go to whatever church is the closest to you geographically. First off, that would be incredibly legalistic and second, its not practical. Just because a church is closest, doesn’t mean its is a Bible believing, Gospel preaching church. They might differ from you on important things. Sadly, they may differ from you on core things as well. But you should be a part of a local church, where you can be involved and a part of the body.

Being a part of the local church helps people know you, see your life, see your wins and your struggles, and help to stay out of the crevices of sin that temptation brings. And the Local church helps people know you so that they can help guard against the influence of false teaching. If all your biblical input is coming from the guys on TV, you will be susceptible to falling for false teaching and for allowing false teachers to define your theology. With no one to correct and counteract false teaching we are all able to be deceived.

The local church, providing discipleship, fellowship, protection against false teaching and teaching truth is, second only to the Bible itself, the most important thing we can actively do to mature and grow in Christ Jesus.

Listen to what Ligon Duncan says about the local church from this passage:

Paul is saying that the local church is the place that God has appointed to be essential to the propagation and protection of the truth in the world. Paul’s saying there can be no “Lone Ranger Christianity.” You can’t be off on your own–you Jesus, and your Bible–and expect for the truth to prosper in your life. We need one another as believers. We need one another as encouragement, we need to see one another’s lives. We need to see the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other believers, to encourage us to love and good deeds. We need to be saying the word to one another, memorizing the word with one another, hearing the word of God together, serving the word of God together. Together the church serves as the pillar and support of the truth, in the sense that it is essential, it is God’s essential vehicle for evangelism, for discipleship, for missions, for the defense of the faith. Paul is just pointing out that the church is absolutely crucial. It is vital in preserving and propagating the gospel. It is the local church, Paul is saying, where God meets especially with His people in the New Covenant era, and it is the local church which is the essential instrument through which God propagates His truth.

 

So many people today miss the importance of the local church. Of sitting under sound teaching and authority, of the accountability, of the understanding and proclaiming of the Truth!

And Paul shares with us that very truth that we are to proclaim as he writes to Timothy:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[e] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated[f] by the Spirit,[g]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

 

This is the truth that the local church is to stand and to proclaim and to protect. The mystery of Godliness. The mystery of the gospel. This mystery that I mentioned last week. The mystery that we heard during the scripture reading early from Ephesians 3.

God shared the Gospel all the way back in Genesis 4, right after the fall. The people of the Old Testament knew that there was a savior, a messiah coming. God promised it. And they had some insight, through the Prophets who spoke the Word of God, what that savior would look like, who that messiah would be. But overall it was a mystery to them.

When Christ arrived, it was no longer a mystery, but was revealed. At first, it was revealed in part, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, then revealed in full after his resurrection and ascension.

Paul writes to the Colossians, chapter 1, verses 25-28:

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Paul has said that the mission of the local church is to stand for and protect the truth. And he says in that passage in Colossians his mission is to the local churches, to make sure that they know and make known the full Word of God and that they known and share the revealed mystery, Christ in you.

And that’s how Paul ends this section with the revel of what that mystery was and what the truth is that we are to stand firm on. Many speculate that this poetic waxing of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is an early Christian hymn.

Paul lists 6 truths about Christ that we are to proclaim and protect. First, Christ was manifested in the flesh. This is his incarnation. Jesus, eternally God from eternity past, 2nd part of the trinity, was made man, put on flesh and is fully God and fully man.

Second, he was vindicated by the Spirit. I’ve seen this taken to refer to either the resurrection, where as the Holt Spirit, fully God, vindicated Jesus, declaring him righteous, innocent and not guilty of any sin, or about his baptism, where the Holy spirit, in the form of a dove descended upon him and vindicated the start of his earthly ministry.

Third, Jesus was seen by the Angels. This is in reference to his ascension. Jesus Christ physically, literally died on the cross and was buried. He was physically, literally brought back to life. He was dead, then he was alive. After that, we see recorded in the beginning of the book of Acts that Jesus, back alive again, did not die again, instead he ascended into Heaven, and where He is now, we will see in the last statement.

Fourth, after his ascension, we see that Jesus disciples went out into the world and proclaimed this very truth. The same truth that we are tasked and blessed with continuing to spread throughout the world. The book of Acts is a record of how the Apostles first began spreading the Gospel.

Fifth, the Gospel was believed throughout the world. And that is one of Gods promises. We spread the seed; he will give the growth. Where the pure, simple Gospel is preached, people will be believing. Paul writes in Romans that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. That is how God has chosen to pour out his grace.

Lastly, Jesus was taken up in glory. When he ascended, he was then seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ is reigning in Heaven and is waiting for his return. He is exalted and worshipped and exactly where he is deserved to be.

One of Paul’s points is that we would do well to remember theses things. These are truths that false teachers will deny or twist. These are the truths that we are to protect. These are the truths that will guide us in how to behave in the household of God.

When we have trouble dealing with stuff, or getting frustrated with certain situations or circumstances, when we want to throw in the towel or take things into our own hands, we would do well to remember these things.

And when we hear something go against these things, we would do well to speak up. Paul will pick back up with the false teachers next week, but right now, here today. This is the truth. This is Christ. This is the mystery revealed. Let us remember and rest in that. Let us remember and rest in Him.

I leave you with the very words of Jesus himself, from Matthew 11:25-30:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[g] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Let’s Pray.

1 Timothy 3:1-13; Life in the Local Church: Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Life in the Local Church

Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, we do have some on the back table and their specific purpose is to give to those who do not have a Bible. Please help yourself as we strive to get Gods Word into everybody’s hands.

Now, we are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we have entitled “Life in the Local Church.” And this week, as we look at most of Chapter 3, we see Paul continue with some of the big themes we looked at last week, picking up a specific thread and answering questions before they get a chance to be asked.

In Chapter 2, Paul showed us some of the roles that He has called certain people to and how they are based on the creation order itself. One of the things that Paul mentions, that today is causing the most ruckus, and likely then, is that the role and office of pastor is not for design by God for women, but for called and qualified men. Which begs the question, what does it mean to be qualified. And that’s what Paul is going to answer in chapter 3.

Chapter 3 lays out the qualifications for elders and deacons. Pastors are called from within the elders, the same qualifications apply. Deacons and Elders are those who are called by God to serve and lead the church in an authoritative role. And if a man does not meet these qualifications, he is not called to be an elder or a deacon.

Let’s go ahead and read the text, the whole text straight through. We will be looking at 1 Timothy 3, verses 1-13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please do follow along with you in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sharing the very Word of God, writes:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,[c] not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise[d] must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Paul, while going into specific examples, is emphasizing some main points here. To me, the biggest point I see being made by Paul is the importance of character when it comes to one who is called. This takes absolute and total precedence over the ability to do tasks and the accomplishments one may have achieved.

Paul starts by saying that the office of overseer, used interchangeably with elder and pastor in our Bibles, is a noble one. Therefore, because of that, because of the office, because of what God has said about it and what He has called it to be, stemming from his created design, this is what an overseer must be.

We are not going to go into full detail in each and everyone of the things that Paul has listed here. But we are going to hit the high points and the themes. Some individually, some as a group. I also want to mention that Pail, in his letter to Titus, also includes a list of qualifications for overseer. Titus1:6-9, Paul writes:

If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.   For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

We are not going to look at that text this morning, but its important to see the parallels and the consistency in the different texts. And what we are going to do is make our way through the attributes and qualities that Paul lists in 1 Timothy 3.

First, an elder must be above reproach.

Above Reproach. This does not mean, of course, to be sinless. RC Sproul says this would be more accurate to the meaning saying, “above scandalous reproach.” This means that elders are to have a good standing in the community, that they are to have a good witness amongst those outside the church.

We see many stories of scandals from pastors or church leaders who fall from their position. Sex, drugs, money, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, when the pastor falls, the scandal breaks, there is a collective response from the outside world of, “see? What hypocrites! And they pretend to be so much better than us!” That pastor is now disqualified. That elder is now disqualified. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is still possible. Restoration to their local church is still hoped for and prayed for. But he is no longer above reproach.

Now, one of the themes, throughout these qualifications, and I don’t know if I’ll mention it multiple times or just leave it hear as a reminder. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I know that there are some that would disagree on me about this, but I don’t believe what happened in our lives before we came to know Christ has any bearings on our qualifications. We know clearly from scripture that it has no bearing on our standing before God. Paul writes in Romans 8:1, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

          But I believe that our lives, specifically our sins from before our coming to Christ, do not disqualify one from a position of leadership. Often, it makes for a better witness and testimony to see how far God has brought us. The last point on this is that being above reproach is also to be looked at as a summation of all the rest of the things that Paul lists here in 1 Timothy 3. It is the essence of character on those whom God has called.

That plays also into the next thing that Paul lists. He says that an elder must be a husband of one wife. The Greek literally reads a one-woman man. Historically, there have been three ways this is interpreted.

First, some say that this is making a prohibition on polygamy. This is possible and polygamy is clearly prohibited in other passages in scripture. Marriage is clearly defined in scripture as between a man and a woman, starting all the way back in the Garden of Eden, before the fall. But I don’t think that’s what this verse is referring to.

Second, some say that this is in reference to unbiblical divorce and remarriage. Scriptures are clear about what God thinks about Divorce. God hates divorce. Jesus said in Mark 10:9, What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

          All scholars and commentators agree that the Bible lays out Biblical exceptions that allow for divorce, most specifically in Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 7. And most scholars and commentators agree that within those circumstances, those exceptions, then there is freedom to remarry as well, though there are a few notable exceptions on that point.

But we know that we live in a state and a society that is willing and encourages divorce for no reason whatsoever and does not hold to the sanctity or the fidelity of the covenant of marriage. So, there are many divorces and remarriages that are there for non-biblical grounds.

The last possibility is that this is referring to being faithful to your marriage bed. No affairs, no extra marital sex. Men only begin with the woman that you are married to. This is where a lot of commentator’s land based on the culture in the Roman empire of the day.

I think however, it’s a combination of the last two at least. I think that the point that Paul is making is that to be a pastor, an overseer, an elder, you must be faithful and fully submitted to what God calls marriage. The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 13:4, Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

God has ordered his creation in a certain way. This applies to gender roles between men and women. This applies to what is and not marriage. This applies to what is and is not sin. This applies to life. To be a leader in the church, you must be faithful to the role and order of Gods creation.

Third, Paul lists self-controlled, sober minded, respectable and hospitable. These come together and speak to a person’s character. These are areas where elders need to lead. Ligon Duncan describes these attributes thusly: He is a temperate, or sober-minded man. He’s possessed of a wakeful, alert, vigilant habit of mind, and he’s opposed to all sorts of excess. He’s prudent, he has mastery over his natural reactions. He’s got some self-control. He’s respectable. He lives a life that bears up under public scrutiny. He’s hospitable; that is, he’s possessed of that hospitality that is required of all Christians. Elders are to take a lead in that.

I’m hoping your noticing something about many of these things that Paul is listing that I’m going to tie together at the end of this.,

Fourthly, he must be able to teach. This is especially important given Ephesus’ problem and our current day problem of dealing with False Teachers. Elders must be able to combat these teachings that go against the Gospel.

This, again, does not mean that all elders must be great or gifted teachers. But what it means is that they can get up and they can teach the Gospel, simply and accurately. They can what a scripture passage means and while they will not always be perfect, they will be studious and knowledgeable.

As a member of the church, you should be able to bring a person who has never heard the gospel or doesn’t know the Gospel and bring them to anyone of the elders and know that the Gospel and salvation message will be clearly and faithfully presented. It may be better stated that an elder is to be able to disciple. To teach those around him who to grow and mature in Christ, to teach them about life and the Bible. Some do it from up front here, all do it done there, amongst the people, in one on one situations, small groups and anywhere the need and opportunity arise.

Fifth, Paul says that Elders are to be not drunkards, not violent, not quarrelsome and not greedy. This is kind of the mirror image in some ways of the third section. There, Paul said this is what they are to be. Here, he is saying what they are not to be.

And the point is that they are not to be giving in and controlled by these earthly, fleshly temptations. These sins are common sins to man, and they are often, though not always, easy to see from both outside a person and outside the church.

This fits right along with what Paul writes in Galatians 5, regarding the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5: 16-25, he writes:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Sure, Paul could have told Timothy and the Ephesians to read what he wrote to the Galatians, but that’s not the way things worked back then. They didn’t have all the scriptures collected and ready to read in one fell swoop. Paul couldn’t depend on the church at Ephesus to know what he wrote to the Galatians.

And so, he often says the same thing in different ways in his letters. IF we don’t pay attention, it can seem that he is just repeating himself, but it is in these areas where we see what the most important things is that Paul was led to address and teach.

Sixth, Paul makes the correlation between managing one’s own household and the house of God. Again, some try to make this mean something more than what Paul is saying. This does not mean that an elder is to have perfect and sinless kids, looking at the comparison being made, that would also mean that we are to have perfect and sinless church members.   And it doesn’t disqualify an elder of his adult children are not walking with the LORD. That would disqualify a surprising amount of godly, qualified and faithful elders in churches today.

I have told this story before but I’m not sure how recently. I was at a Pastors conference many years ago. The speaker asked this room full of pastors, how many there had children who were not walking with the LORD. Well over 75% of the men in that room raised their hands.

It reminds that even when we are faithful to manage our households and to raise our kids the right way, they can’t just take our faith. At some point, they are solely responsible for their own faith.

So, whether the kids are or become saved is not what Paul would use to determine whether one’s household is managed well. One commentary brings home the point when it states, only a man capable of virtuously leading his own family can lead members of Gods family. To do one, one must first prove he can do the simpler. And yes, managing one’s own house is simpler than managing Gods house. When one is faithful with a little, God will give him more.

Seventh, Paul says that an elder, an overseer must not be a recent convert. This has to do with spiritual maturity, not physical age or maturity. Its easy, as a new convert, for us to think that, as we get to know things in and about the Bible, that we know it all. It is not uncommon to enter what’s called “Cage stage.” One article explains the term this way: Cage-stage” describes an all too common phenomenon wherein a believer comes to embrace (the LORD) and for a time becomes an obnoxious lout in defending the doctrines to all comers, whether they are interested or not. It suggests that such a newbie should spend some time in a cage until they calm down.

The article continues: The Cage Stager seems to forget the battle with sin he not only continues to have, but the battle he only recently won, by God’s grace, in coming to embrace the doctrines of grace. He seems to reason, “What is wrong with those terrible, awful, good-for-nothing sinners that they refuse to see what I only recently came to see?”

The biggest issue that comes out of being a recent convert is pride. Pride has no place in leading the people of God. Connected to this, we are never more susceptible to false teaching and sin than when we are first growing.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we mature, the more we should be resisting sin and remaining humble. We know how little we deserve to receive from God. And We know how much He has given us, His grace and His mercy and his forgiveness.

Lastly, and in summation of what Paul has already written, an elder is to be thought well by outsiders. If a pastor, or an elder, church leaders, if they fall, it should be incredibly hard for him to be restored to office. Again, forgiveness can and should come with repentance and it should come quickly. But restoration should come very, very slowly if at all, because, among other reasons, how it would look to the outside world. This is directly tied to the very first thing that Paul wrote, about overseers being above reproach.

Paul then moves to verse 8, saying, Deacons, likewise. Now, some see this as being an interchangeable continuation of his list regarding elders. Paul will use different terms interchangeably, so I get it. But I see this as a differentiation of the two offices of Elders and Deacons.

They are very similar, as we see with Paul saying, likewise, and as we see with the similarities between the two lists. We are going to burn through this list really quick and focus, mostly on how they parallel the list of qualifications of elders.

That Deacons must be dignified parallels #’s 1 and 3 especially of what we just looked at. Not addicted to much wine, or greedy for dishonest gain, parallels number 5, that elders are not to be drunkards or greedy.

Next Paul mentions the mystery of the faith. This is the Gospel. This is the mystery that was yet to be revealed in the Old Testament about who and what the Messiah would be. This is that God became man, to die for our sins and offer grace for the forgiveness of sins.

Deacons do not have to be able to teach as elders are required to be. However, they must be solid in the faith. They must have a solid theological background, not swaying on some of the core tenets of the faith. They do have to know and be able to express the clear Gospel.

Deacons are to be test first and found blameless. This parallels with # 7 in ways. Of course, we know that blameless does not equal sinless. They are to let their lives, over time, through the course of trials and testing, show fruit of the Gospel. Taking a course over time shows that they also cannot be a recent convert. Fruit takes time to grow and develop.

A quick aside in v 11 shows that the wives must also be mature Christians showing fruit of the spirit, as Paul declares they are to be dignified, not slanderous, sober minded and faithful.

Paul returns to the deacons as he mentions that they are to be the husband of one wife, just like #2 and that he must manage his household well, just like #6. Those 8 qualifications for deacons are very similar to those qualifications for elders as you can see.

They are positions of authority in the church, of leadership. But they are first and foremost positions of servanthood. Our lives and our service are to a testimony to the life and work of and our faith in Jesus Christ. All that we do, we are to do unto the LORD.

And here is the connecting thread I was wondering if you picked up on earlier. This is a passage listing the qualifications of elders and deacons in the local church. Does that mean this is a passage that is only intended to be for myself and the elders of the church? Does this mean that there isn’t any takeaway or application for you? Nope. Sorry, not that easy for you.

These are qualifications and requirements for Deacons and Elders. But this is the goal for ALL believers. Each and everyone of us, this is a list that we should strive to live out as we grow and mature in our faith in Christ Jesus.

Also, the elders and deacons of Bangor Community Church are voted on by the members of Bangor Community Church. In order to vote, you must know what you are voting for. So, this passage, this list of qualifications, is so much more than just that.

This is a list of what Gods is doing in our lives, through sanctification and through growth. This is what we should see developing in each and every one of us. This is the fruit that grows and develops over time because of what Christ has done for us.

 

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

Malachi 3:13-4:6 The Cynical and the Faithful

Malachi 3:13-4:6
The Cynical and the Faithful

Good Morning! Lets go ahead and grab our Bibles and turn to Malachi chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.
Today we look at the last section of Malchi, finishing up our time with this Old Testament minor prophet. Next week we are going to start a series going through 1 & 2 Timothy, Pauls letters to his Son in the Faith, showing us how God designed the Church to run and to act. Whats right and wrong and what the truth is that we are command to keep and stand up for.
Ut, today, as we come to an end of our series through the book of Malachi, we see Malachi, or God speaking through Malachi, Malachi writing down the words of God. We see the theme of the rest of book, come together and be wrapped up in the last sections of this book. And part of the themes of this book could be ripped from todays headlines.
If you follow the news at all, and if you dont, good for you. But if you follow the news at all, this past week you saw that Jefferey Epstein died in prison last weekend of a reported suicide. He was an evil man, charged with many account of human trafficking and other horrible, unspeakable crimes. When his death was reported, the Newspaper headlines shouted out that he had escaped Justice.
The world has the thinking that if you die before you are punished for your crimes and sins, you have escaped justice. And we, inside the church fall into that same thinking. If we dont see people around us facing the consequences for their sins, we get upset with God, because justice is not being served.
Malachi addresses that and more as we look at this last section. Before we go any further, lets read this week’s text. Reading Malachi 3:13-4:6. Ill be reading out of the English standard Version and I do encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation here today. Again, Malachi chapter 3, verse 13, through the end of the book, chater 4, verse 6. God, our Father, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The first thing we see here is the last accusation God makkes iof Israel in this prophetic book. We have spoken hard words against Him. And of course, as with every accustation in this book, Israel’s and our response to him is HOW? We dont see things through Gods eyes. We dont see accurately what we are doing, how we are acting and what we are saying. We ceratinly dont see what our words mean, especially to those around us. By responding in this way, Israel is playing the victim. “Thats no what we said!” Or “Thats not what we meant!”
But each time God responses with exactly what they have done wrong. And he says, when you look around and you see evil doers prospering, when you see them test God and seeming to escape punishment, when you see that happen and you say, “Theres no Justice!” or “Theres no Point!” When you see those things and you figure that there is no point in serving God, those are our hard words against God.
And to be clear, you can have the ideas, the thoughts that those who do evil are getting away with it and you can wonder why God isnt punishing them and continue to serve God with all your heart, mind body and soul. You can see those things and still trust that God And those are not necessarily hard words against God in and of themselves. But when you say that BECASUE justice is not being served, BECAUSE you see these issues that there is no point in serving God then you are turning back from God.
We see Job cry out quite a bit about the perceived injustices and he continues to trust in God. We see Habakkuk cry out about the violence and asking why God is allowing it to continue. Jesus cries over the city of Jerusalem and their hard hearts. But when we see people sin openly and freely, and blaspheme God in their hearts and their actions, God tells us to trust him even more and to be faithful to what he has called us to do. Serve him, obey him, trust in him and share him with the world.
God says that he will be faithful to those who are faithful. As a quick aside, sparked by the text, this shows, as well, the importance of fellowship. Of getting together on a regular basis, both on Sunday mornings and otherwise. Talking wth each other, meeting together, getting to know each other deeper, knowing our struggles and our triumphs.
Our church family will help us stay faithful and comitted. It can be very easy to feel isolated. It can be very easy to feel like we are the only ones. Both as individuals and as a church. We have talked a lot recently on Wednesday mornings AND Sunday nights of churches in Northern California and cross America that are being unfaithful to their designed purpose of Preaching the Word of Gods, teaching the Bible and discipling Christians to follow the commands of God. And with that it can easy for us to get prideful and think we are the only faithful church left.
Individually, we look around us, look at the multitudes across America that identify as Christians and yet, seem to be living as the world or have poor theology and it can be very easy for us to get prideful that we are true christians when they are not or we are better, more mature, righter christians, while they are still immature or believe false teachings. And we do so as though either of those have anything to do with our efforts , as opposed to our faith being a gift of Gods grace.
But, again, it can very easily feel like we are the only ones left in this world. And yet, God has addressed this all throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah frustrated about the things going on around him and the lack of faithfullness from israel. He says in verse 14, talking to God: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Essentially, I am the only one faithfully serving you, LORD. Everyone else has abandonded you and I and only I am the one doing right in your eyes! Well, there is a lot we could go into there, but Suffice it to say that Elijah feels isolated and like there is not much hope left in anyone but himself. God response to him in verse 18, telling Elijah: Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
We are not alone. Despite what we see around us, or what society and the prevailing culture present to us, God always keeps a remnant and it is always larger than we expect. This of course does not cntradict what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13 & 14. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Many will think that they are Christians and they are decieved. And yet, many more than we can see will also be along side of us in heaven. The truth is, Christianity is not shrinking. Let me say that again, more accurately. True, biblical Christianity is not shrinking.
True, biblical Christianity is protected by and preserve by God. True, biblical Christianity, the Invisible and universal church is not what the world sees as Christianity. Studies over the last few years have shown that over 90% of Americans believe in “god”. There is ot a definition to who or what god is in that question, just, “Do you believe in god?” It goes further to show that somewhere around 75% of Americans claim to be Christians.
And yet, as we have discussed before, many who claim to be Christians dont actually now what Christianity is. They dont actually know what the Bible says. They hold to what is, by definition, heretical beliefs. And those are who we see walking away, leaving the church and John writes in his letter that they went out from us because they were never really one of us.
But those who fear the LORD, they shall be mine, says the LORD. Those who have been saved by God, through his grace, manifested in our faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross, assured of their salvation through a doctrine called “Perserverence of the Saints.”
Got Questions describe the doctrine this way:
God, by His own power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, keeps or preserves the believer forever. This wonderful truth is seen in Ephesians 1:13-14, where we see that believers are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, to the praise of His glory.” When we are born again, we receive the promised indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that is God’s guarantee that He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6). In order for us to lose our salvation after receiving the promised Holy Spirit, God would have to break His promise or renege on His “guarantee,” which He cannot do. Therefore, the believer is eternally secure because God is eternally faithful.

Gods people are his treasured possesions. They, we, will be spared our much deserved wrath of God and instead be declared rightouess in His sight and promised eternity with a prefect, holy and loving God.
The thing that God is showing us is the distinction between the rightouess and the unrightouess. That can be very hard to see. Its not always clear. Jesus shows us this in the prable of the wheat and the tares, in Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 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.”
Our churches in America, in this world are filled with both believers and non believers. Coming together, growing up intermixed, with nobody but God able to tell who is who.
Not only is America one of the biggest mission feilds in maerica, the reason Village Missions exists, but churches are one of the biggest mission fields in America. Many think that if they attend church regularly, or if their parents or grandparents brought them to church or Sunday School as a kid, or if they raised their hand or walked down to an altar and said a prayer, that they are saved. Too many think that if they live moral lives, bring their kids to church and vote Republican that they will have check off enough items on the chrck list that God uses to determine if we are good enough to get into heaven.
However, Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This is important. What we claim, what we identify as, how we act, none of it does anything to save us. Salvation is by the grace of God alone, through Fiath alone in His Son, Jesus Christ alone, to and for the glory of God alone, as He has revealed in the Sciptures alone.
So, regardless of what we would like to think, there are only two distinctions. The rightouess and the wicked. And the Day of the LORD is coming. And on that day, we will see the seperation, the distinction between the rightouess and the wicked.
On that day, the arrogant and the wicked, those who reject Gods covenant and his grace and mercy, those who know the truth but supress it by their unrightouesness, they will be subject to the judgment fire. The lake of fire, that never quenches.
This is unfortunately not the refining fire that we see back in Chapter 3, verse 2. This is an eternal punishment. Perfect and Holy Justice will be served. Man like Jeffery Epstein, who many think have escaped justice, cannot escape the Justice and wrath of God. And because of our sins, that is what we all deserve. I came upon this wupte this week: “Nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil.”
But for Gods covenant people, for those who fear him, for those who serve him, for those whose faith is in Him, The Son of Rightouesness will come with healings. This is not necessarily speaking of physical healing in this world, in this life. God came to save sinners. He will heal us of our sins. We will be healed of our sins to spend eternity in our perfect, glorified, physical bodies.

Gods message in the scriptures is often a dual message with one purpose. Malachi shows that as well. Malachi starts with a declaration of the love of God. And it ends with the threat of a curse. Paul writes in Romans 11:22: Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.

The Kindness AND the severity of God, all designed to bring us to repentence and faith. His kindness poured out on those who respond to this message. His severity poured out on those who reject it.
Christianity is both, at the same time, the most inclusive AND exclusive religion in the world. Exclusive because there is only one way to salvation, only through Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only door that we can go through to get to God the Father. Period, There is no other way. It is inclusive more that any other religion, because the invitation to walk through that door goes out to anyone and everyone. It is going out to everyone here this morning. If you have not responded to this message of love and salvation, now is the time. If you thought youw ere safe and realized that you are trusting In your own works and rightouesness, now is the time to believe the Gospel and repent. If you have already respended to this message and trusted in Christ alone, now is the time to share with those around you and to rejoice in the coming of the LORD to dole out his perfect and Holy justice and his perfect and holy mercy and grace.
The Message of Malachi, the Message of this book is Gods Faithfullness and his love and his compassion and his mercy. And the message is his wrath and his justice, all perfect, all complete and all holy just as God himself is. The covenant God has made is perfect, complete and Holy just as He is and it will never end, it will never be broke by God and we can place our complete and total trust in him and his commands.
Lets finish this book off by reading what The psalmist writes in Psalm 84:11 & 12:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!