Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Due to a number of people wanting to get a head start on their Thanksgiving food preparations, we will not have our Wednesday evening study tonight. Please join us next Wednesday at 7 PM, D.V., as we look at the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
November 24, 2013 Second Reformed Church
The Destroyer came and killed the first borns of Egypt, both human and animal, of all those who did not have the mark of the blood on the door posts and the lintel of their doors, but the people of God, the Hebrews, Israel, marked their doors, and the Destroyer passed over them and did not kill the first borns as they celebrated the first Passover.
In the morning, when the Egyptians found all the first borns dead, Pharaoh told the Hebrews to leave, and the people of Egypt also urged them to leave, giving them their jewels and gold as an added incentive – fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham that the people would leave after four hundred years and take the treasure of Egypt with them.
God led the people by a pillar of cloud, and they walked towards the Red Sea, believing the promise that had been made to them through Moses that they would be delivered from captivity in Egypt and make their way to the Promised Land.
These people were following God – and Moses – by faith. They had never seen the Promised Land – they had only heard of the promises and the stories of the sons of Jacob who had come to Egypt in the days of the great famine. Yet, they were assured of the things they hoped for and they had a conviction about the things that they had not seen. That is what faith is – the means by which we receive the Word of God and believe it with absolute assurance and conviction, based on what God has said and revealed about Himself – the promises He has made and the things He has said were and are and will be.
The author of Hebrews turns to the Exodus as the next example of faith for the first century Christians to whom he was writing:
“By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.”
We see in this historical example the rage-filled pursuit of the Hebrews – the believers – by the Egyptians – the unbelievers, the victory of the believers and the ruin of the unbelievers. As we remember that the Church was being persecuted by Nero and the Romans in the first century, it is not hard to see why this example is included. Nor is it difficult to apply this example to the Church in general and to see it as a type of the end of the Church and the world.
And, so, we can find four doctrines here:
First, the world will attack the Church with increasing rage as we near the end of the age.
Second, the Church ought not to be surprised by the world’s attack, but stand strong in faith.
Third, God will deliver the Church from the world.
And fourth, God will bring the world to ruin in the Judgment.
Let us look at the account:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, “They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.” And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.’ And they did so.
“When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, ‘What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’ So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.”
Moses and the two million or so Hebrew slaves made their way from Egypt towards the Red Sea, following God’s instructions, not knowing how they would get across the Red Sea. And God told Moses to tell the people that when they got to the Red Sea, they should stop and wait.
Meanwhile, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh once again changed his mind and gathered together all of his troops – their chariots and their foot soldiers – with Pharaoh, himself, in the lead, and set off after the Hebrews with great rage.
Just as Pharaoh and his army raged against the believing Hebrews, the first readers of the book of Hebrews would understand that Nero and the army of Rome was raging against the believing Christians. And we see today, around the world – the unbelievers – are raging against believing Christians. Yet, we ought to take heart and not be surprised, as Jesus said:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18-25, ESV).
David wrote of this rage of unbelievers over a thousand years before Jesus: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:1-3, ESV).
So, we see that it has always been that the nonbeliever will ragefully attack the believer – and all the more so, now that the Savior has come. The world will attack the Church with increasing rage as we near the end of the age.
“When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’”
All of a sudden, the people of God saw the Egyptians in the distance – raging towards them, barreling down on them, and the people were afraid. They even sarcastically asked Moses if he had brought them out in the desert because there were not enough graves in Egypt. They were moaning and ready to give up and go back into slavery under the Egyptians, and Moses told them to have faith – to believe in the promises of God they had received and to be confident that they would be delivered through the Red Sea and into the Promised Land, just as God had promised. This was God’s will; this was God’s fight. So, shut up.
Notice, Moses was not denying that the Egyptians were a great force, and they probably could have taken the people back into slavery, if they had merely escaped of their own design. But this was the promise of the Almighty God Who cannot lie. God promised that He would bring His people back into the Promised Land – so it would happen. Now, as we know from the rest of the history, God did not promise to bring everyone into the Promised Land – we must not put words in God’s mouth that He did not say.
But Moses was telling the people to remember what they had believed – the promises that had received through faith – the miracles they had seen in Egypt – to stop moaning and worrying, but to stand strong in their faith and be quiet unless they had something constructive to say.
Nero and Rome were frightening, we are frightened by events and people that come up against Christ and His Church, but we are called not to turn back in fear and moaning, but to take the promises that we have been given, to look at the history of what God has done and believe, and stand strong -- trusting – in faith, based on all that we know from God and about Him.
Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth as the fulfillment of the promise God made to provide a Savior – One Who would make a way for sinners to be right with God. And we know what they did: they raged against Him, and tortured Him, and put Him to death.
Jesus explained that if they did that to Him, they will also do the same to His followers. Why? Jesus said, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:18-20, ESV).
Understand, when we sin, we try to keep our sin hidden – we don’t want the world to know our sins, much less our brothers and sisters. So much more does the world – nonbelievers – who love their sin, because they do not believe in Jesus, the Son of God – want to keep the Light from exposing their sins. So their natural reaction was to kill the Light, so their sin would not be revealed. Though that is foolishness, because God knows everything that is ever done, and the day will come when all will be exposed for all to see.
Since we are followers of the Light, our faith and belief exposes the sin of unbelievers, so they hate us as well – the world continues to try to kill the Light in all the followers of the Light.
John explains – in commenting on the murder of Abel by Cain – “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:13-15, ESV).
As we’ve said, that does not mean that we should seek out persecution, only that we should not be surprised when it comes. It also does not mean that every nonbeliever is going to be against us in the same way. We see in the world around us many countries where people are put to death for confessing faith in Christ, but nonbelievers do not usually kill believers in the United States – but they may eventually. Right now, what we see is largely a silent tolerance – so long as we keep silent. We often talk about this being a Christian country – it is not.
Wikipedia currently states that 73 to 80% of people in the United States say they are Christians. But that number is distorted – many people call themselves Christians who have no faith at all, who deny belief in the God of the Bible and the Savior He has sent. Pastor Mark Driscoll said in a recent interview (http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/11/22/mark-driscoll-accused-plagiarism-radio-host/) that the number of confessional Christians – people who believe what the Bible says and have received Jesus as Savior – is actually closer to 7 to 8% of the population in the United States. What about the other 72% from Wikipedia? There is such a thing as a cultural Christian – those people who call themselves Christian based on their heritage or belief that being a Christian means you’re a good person – these are nonbelievers. That’s why people who call themselves Christians rage against God and His Word.
That’s why the Church ought not to be surprised by the world’s attacks, but stand strong in faith.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.’
“Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”
God told Moses He didn’t want to hear the complaints; He wanted to see obedience. And God told Moses to stretch his hands out over the Red Sea, and it would part, so the Hebrews could walk on dry ground to the other side. Meanwhile, God would harden the hearts of the Egyptians all the more that they would follow Israel into the Red Sea as they crossed to the other side.
So Moses stretched out his hands, and God sent the wind to part of the waters, and they became a wall on the right and on the left, and the people of God walked down into the Sea on dry ground and began to walk across to the other side.
God promised to deliver the Hebrews out of Egypt and out of their bondage in slavery, and God did. When the people came up to the Sea, it was not a problem for God, the Creator – God just parted the Sea so they could walk across.
God has promised to bring all of His Plans and Promises to pass. The problem is when we waver in our faith – when we take our eyes off of God, when we begin to doubt all those things that we received by faith from God’s Word. It is then that we start to stumble.
Remember what happened after the feeding of the five thousand:
“Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’
“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:22-33, ESV).
God tells us not to doubt but to receive His Word by faith and believe. God will do what He said. Will we suffer? Probably. Will we be put to death? Possibly. Will God keep His Word and bring us into the Fullness of the Kingdom? Absolutely.
As God said on several occasions, “’Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?’” (Jeremiah 32:27, ESV).
And God says of those who persecute Him and His Church: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (Psalm 2:4-6, ESV).
As Jesus said to the church at Thyatira, “Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:25-28, ESV).
Through faith, we can endure whatever the world brings against us. Faith will find a way through any trial that is for the sake of Christ, and God will work that faith out in deliverance. For God will deliver the Church from the world.
“The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.’
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.’ So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:1-31, ESV).
As God planned, the Egyptians followed the Hebrews into the Sea, and as the last of the Hebrews made it to the other side – twelve hours or so later – the pillar of fire and cloud turned and struck fear in the hearts of the Egyptians, and they said, “Let’s get out of here – the Lord is on their side!” But God gummed up the chariots’ wheels so they couldn’t move – the Egyptians were stuck in the mud. And Moses stretched out his hands again, and the sea closed over the Egyptians and killed them. And the people of God feared Him and believed in Him with great assurance and conviction. God had proved Himself to His people once again, and, for now, their faith was strong and they believed in God and His Word.
Here we have God’s judgment on the nonbeliever – some He will bring to ruin in this lifetime – and all those who never believe, He will bring to ruin in judgment at the end of the age.
John paints a picture of the end of the unbeliever like this:
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV).
In the end, our hope is that the Church – all those who believe – will be delivered. Sadly, God will bring the world to ruin in the Judgment. We understand it to be sadly, because we ought not to desire anyone to be left out of the Kingdom. We rejoice that our persecution will end and that God will be glorified for our persecution on His behalf, but we ought to seek the salvation of all people and mourn those who die outside of the faith.
This Exodus was an event of hope for those who went through it and for the Christians suffering in the first century, as it should be an event of hope for us. In it we see:
The world will attack the Church with increasing rage as we near the end of the age.
The Church ought not to be surprised by the world’s attack but stand strong in the faith.
God will deliver the Church from the world.
And, God will bring the world to ruin in the Judgment.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, Who loves His people and keeps His promises, we thank You that You will bring Your people – the Church – through history into Your Kingdom as conquerors. Help us to trust in You at all times and not fear what people and kings and nations might do to us, but hold on in hope and with great faith to all You have said and promised, seeking that You be glorified in all things, and looking forward to that day when we will be with You in glory forever. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
"Moses, Part 4”
November 17, 2013 Second Reformed Church
Last week, we saw Moses approach Pharaoh after the ninth plague and demand that he set the people of God free – and Pharaoh refused. Pharaoh threated that he would kill Moses if he ever saw him again, and Moses, fearlessly, having faith in God and His promises, declared that he would never see him again. Yet, his final word was the revelation of the tenth plague – that God was going to come to kill the first-born of all the people and all the animals of Egypt, after which, Pharaoh would tell them all to leave – and Moses stormed out of the presence of Pharaoh.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt’” (Exodus 11:9, ESV).
Then God spoke to Moses and instituted the Passover – and we do well to hear what God said:
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts 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. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn 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.
“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. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.
“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has 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.”’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
“Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did” (Exodus 12:1-28, ESV).
Again, our text this morning reads: “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”
As we consider the Passover, we understand:
First, faith is necessary to receive the Sacrament.
Second, Jesus received the Wrath of God on Himself that was due us.
Third, we are not touched by the Destroyer, because Jesus bled for us.
“By faith he kept the Passover”
The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. Moses had made it impossible for him to ever return to speak to Pharaoh. And now God had told Moses to institute the Passover, after which, the people of God would be able to leave Egypt.
Moses received these instructions and this promise from God by faith: Moses received what he knew about God through his years shepherding sheep and from God speaking to him as he dealt with Pharaoh. Being thoroughly convinced of God’s Attributes, he received this promise of something he had not seen – the death of the first-borns and the deliverance of the whole nation – as fact. And so he kept the Passover by faith, believing that God’s Word is true.
The Passover was a type or a foreshadowing of Jesus, His Work, and also of the Sacrament that He left us. Let us quickly look at how the instructions about the lamb parallel Jesus and then look at the Passover’s transformation into the Lord’s Supper [cf. Owen, Hebrews, vol. 7, 166-167]:
The Passover centered around the picking of a lamb, killing it, being marked by its blood, and eating it. We read, “The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29, ESV).
The lamb was to be taken out of the flock – he was to be one of many sheep. So, Jesus is a human being just like us – Jesus, the Lamb of God, was taken out of humanity, as the author of Hebrews explained, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-17, ESV).
This lamb was to be taken out of the flock – separated for his purpose. Likewise, Jesus was also separate and separated from other men by His being free from sin: “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26, ESV).
It was also to be without blemish. Peter picks up this language, writing, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (I Peter 1:19, ESV).
It was to be slain for his people. As Jesus was, and John writes, “and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8, ESV).
The lamb was to be slain as a sacrifice. And Paul writes, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (I Corinthians 5:7b, ESV).
The lamb was to be roasted. One commentator points out that this is symbolic of the Wrath of God that Jesus suffered for all of the sins of all those who would ever believe in Him which we see in Jesus’ exclamation of the Father deserting Him on the cross: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46, ESV).
In verse forty-six of Exodus 12, which we did not read, the instructions continue, saying that the bones of the lamb are not to be broken, which we see fulfilled in Jesus, “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced’” (John 19:33-37, ESV).
And, finally, in commanding that the lamb be eaten in its entirety, one commentator explains that this is an image of this being a sacrament that is to be received by faith wholly for the reception of the grace it was given to deliver.
As we turn to the Gospels, we see how Jesus turned the Sacrament of the Passover into the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper:
In the Upper Room, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, and after Judas had been dismissed to his great sin, we read: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom’” (Matthew 26:26-29, ESV).
The Passover and the Lord’s Supper both pointed to deliverance – deliverance from slavery in Egypt and deliverance from sin. Both pointed to the Deliverer: God. By the Father’s Mighty Right Arm, He delivered the people of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and gave them a perpetual sacrament which pointed to deliverance from sin by the Mighty Right Arm of the Savior, Jesus, the Son of God. And Jesus explained that the Sacrament is no mere memorial – though we do remember what happened when we receive the bread and the cup, just as the Hebrews would remember what happened as they received the elements of the Passover, the Passover had to be – and the Lord’s Supper must be – received by faith to benefit from it and to have a sure hope of the things to which it looks forward to – the Savior and His First and Second Comings.
Without faith, the idea that an eighty-year-old man would lead the Hebrews out of slavery and out of Egypt – that the mightiest nation at the time would acquiesce and let them go – well, it would have been laughable. Similarly, the idea that a carpenter from Nazareth was the Savior was also a laughable idea without faith. Yet, through faith, we receive the Sacrament, and receive the grace to believe – not just knowing the words, but believing with our hearts that these things are true and have and will come to pass, and gaining understanding of what the symbols mean.
Faith is necessary to receive the Sacrament.
“and sprinkled the blood,”
God told Moses to have the Hebrews mark the doors of their homes – the doorposts and the lintel – with the blood of the lamb. The blood of the lamb was substituted for the first-borns of the families who marked their doors. The Wrath of God did not come down on the first-borns of all of the families that offered up a substitute in the form of the blood of the lamb as God had instructed.
And we understand that the offering of the blood of the lamb in the place of the first-borns was a temporary diversion of the Wrath of God. After all, it was God, Himself, Who sent the nation of the Hebrews into captivity as a punishment for their sin against Him: “Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions’” (Genesis 15:13-14, ESV).
As Paul explains: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18, ESV). Due to our first parents’ sin, God’s Wrath is against us, and there has always only been One Way to be delivered from that Wrath – to have an acceptable substitute take it on for us. The Sacrificial System, as we have seen in the book of Hebrews, was a system of partial, temporary forgiveness for sin – without something more, all would be deserving of the Wrath of God and eternal Hell.
James explains that only the Promised Savior could be the Acceptable Substitute in God’s eyes to take our sins upon Himself and suffer the Wrath of God for our sins and yet survive – as he explained from the prophecy of Isaiah: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7, ESV).
As we saw in the parallels of the Passover Lamb and Jesus, Jesus is a real human being, so He was able to take the place of real human beings, and Jesus is God, so He is able to survive the Wrath that poured down upon Him for all those who would ever believe. As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).
Out of love, God sent His Only Begotten Son to bear God’s Wrath against all those who would ever believe in the Son for salvation, so we would never have to suffer that Wrath, but would receive salvation – deliverance – just as the people of the Hebrews did from Egypt.
Jesus received the Wrath of God on Himself that was due us.
“so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”
And so we that God delivered the Hebrews out of Egypt by receiving God’s instruction by faith and putting blood on the doorposts and the lintel of their doors. For all those who did this by faith we delivered from the Destroyer Who came to kill the firstborns of the Egyptians – all those who did not have the mark of the blood on them.
And here we have something interesting in the text – Who is it that is said would come to kill the first-borns of all those who are not marked by the blood? God repeatedly says that He will come and kill them, and then He says that He will send the Destroyer in or tell Him to pass over. The commentators do not agree, so let us leave it, for now, that God determines whether or not the Destroyer comes in, based on whether or not the household is marked by the blood.
The parallel ought to come quickly to us now, does it not?
Paul tells us, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Jesus’] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9, ESV).
And, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (I Thessalonians 5:9-10, ESV).
For all those who believe in the Savior by faith – all those Who receive what God has said through His Word about the Savior Who would come and reconcile a people with God – for them, Jesus shed His Blood on the cross, taking our sins and God’s Wrath upon Himself, and delivering us from the Destroyer – from the wages of sin that we would be responsible to pay, if we did not have Jesus for our Substitute before God.
We are not touched by the Destroyer, because Jesus bled for us.
And so we see, that all we who believe in the Lamb of God Who received the Wrath of God as our Substitute, and covered us in His Blood that we would not be subject to the judgment of the Destroyer, are delivered from our sin and its wages.
As Paul explained: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:1-4, 37-39, ESV).
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for saving Your people through the Blood of the Lamb. We thank You for the foretelling of the work of Jesus Christ, the Son and Lamb of God, through the symbols of the Passover. We ask that we would receive these symbols and this history by faith and believe with all our heart. And as we turn to receive the Sacrament that You have given to the Church, we ask that the Holy Spirit would help us to receive the elements of the bread and the cup with greater understanding and fuller devotion that we might witness to the deliverance that You have accomplished for us. For it is in the Name of this Jesus, our Substitute, that we pray, Amen.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
We continue, D.V., our look at Reformed Theology, now moving from the things we have in common with other Christians, to distinctives of being Reformed. We begin to look at the doctrine of Total Depravity tonight. Join us at 7 PM.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
“Moses, Part 3”
November 10, 2013 Second Reformed Church
As we continue to look at Moses and the examples of faith in his life, we remember that faith receives the Word of God, being assured of the things that God has promised – all those things we hope for according to the Word of God, and being convicted that the history and the beings recorded in the Word of God are true and real, despite our not having seen them.
In this morning’s text, we are given two more examples of faith – these when Moses left Egypt – the first being that Moses was not “afraid of the anger of the king” – the Pharaoh, the second being that Moses endured because he saw God Who is invisible. Here we see that Moses received the Word of God and believed what God has promised, thus he was not afraid of the anger of the Pharaoh, and Moses believed in God Who is invisible and because he “saw” the invisible God, he could endure all that he would go through.
From these two examples, we draw two doctrines:
First, faith in God and His Word enable us not to fear evil.
Second, faith in God and His Word enable us to endure trial.
“By faith he left Egypt,”
The first question we need to ask ourselves is which leaving of Egypt is Moses writing about? We have two prominent “leavings” of Egypt by Moses recorded in the book of Exodus.
Perhaps because it is next in the history, the first leaving of Egypt is the one that catches our immediate attention. Moses is forty years old:
“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your companion?’ He answered, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid, and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well” (Exodus 2:11-15, ESV).
As we saw last week, Moses had turned his back on his adoption by the daughter of Pharaoh and recognized himself to be a Hebrew, one of the people of God. Over forty years of watching the slavery of his people, it was finally too much for him, and when he saw a Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.
The next day, He saw two of his fellow Hebrews fighting, and he was embarrassed that they were fighting with each other rather than standing together as God’s people, so he told them to stop. And one of them men asked Moses if he was there to kill him as he had the Egyptian.
And Moses was terrified: surely word would get back to Pharaoh of what he did, and Pharaoh would have him tortured and put to death as an example. So, Moses ran to the land of Midian, where he got a job as a shepherd.
Is this the first example of faith?
No, it can’t be, because Moses leaves Egypt this time because he is afraid of being punished for his sin. Moses had no right to kill the Egyptian, and doing so was not an example of faith for us.
That only leaves one possibility: it is Moses’ second leaving of Egypt that the author of Hebrews is referring to. Here, Moses is eighty years old. He has come in the authority of God to command Pharaoh to let the people of God go free, and by the Hand of God, Moses has brought plagues upon the people of Egypt to put down the gods that they worshipped:
First, the Nile was turned to blood, putting down Hapi, god of the Nile. Second frogs infested the land, putting down Hekket, goddess of fertility, water, and renewal. Third, gnats infested the land, putting down Geb, god of the earth. Fourth, flies infested the land, putting down Khepri, god of the movement of the sun, creation, and rebirth. Fifth their livestock die, putting down Hathor, goddesss of love and protection. Sixth, boils cover the people and animals, putting down Isis, goddess of medicine and peace. Seventh, hail pounds the land, putting down Nut, god of the night sky. Eighth, locusts infest the land, putting down Seth, god of storms and disorder. Ninth, darkness covers the land, putting down Ra, god of the sun. And tenth, the firstborn of all those not market with blood on their door’s lintel were put to death, putting down Pharaoh, the greatest power in Egypt. (cf. http://hubpages.com/hub/Ten-Plagues-For-Ten-Gods)
Here, the cause is God’s, and Moses’ response is that of faith. Moses receives the Word of God and believes God’s promise that the people of God would be set free from slavery, so Moses goes before Pharaoh, not once, not twice, not three time, not four time, not five times, not six times, not seven times, not eight times, not nine times, but ten times, demanding, in the Name of God, the release of God’s people.
The tenth time that Moses came before Pharaoh – before the tenth plague, Moses called on Pharaoh to release the people of God, and Pharaoh said no and threatened Moses, but Moses was not afraid of his threats, but affirmed what Pharaoh had said:
“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.’ Moses said, ‘As you say! I will not see your face again’” (Exodus 10:27-29, ESV).
The next morning, Moses led six million Hebrews out of slavery by the Hand and under the guidance of God. This time, when Moses left Egypt, Moses was not afraid of Pharaoh. Instead, he had not sinned, but was following God’s Will – God’s Cause – and everything came to pass as God had assured him back in Midian.
As we have discussed before, if we do something wrong – if we sin against someone else – especially against the government – then we have right to run and hide and be afraid of what will happen to us, as Moses was afraid after sinfully killing the Egyptian and then running and hiding in Midian.
But, if we are doing what is right, if we are acting on behalf of God – and do make absolutely sure you are acting for God’s cause! – then we have no reason to fear. If we are doing what God wants, then there is nothing and no one to fear, because we are obeying God.
Again, as we’ve said before, following God’s Will does not mean that we won’t suffer – we may suffer for God’s Will, but if we are obeying God, there is no reason to be afraid.
Consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, during His praying, we remember the famous lines:
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39, ESV).
What was Jesus saying? As R. C. Sproul points out in the video series we are watching Wednesday evenings, the consideration of being tortured all night and the next day and then being crucified was not appealing – Jesus asked if there was any other way for His Father to achieve the salvation of God’s people. But, and here we see that Jesus did not fear accomplishing His Work – He did not fear submitting Himself to the evil and sinful treatment of the Jews and the Romans – Jesus said, “not as I will, but as you will.” And Dr. Sproul points out, Jesus is not saying, “If there’s no other way, I guess I’ll have to go through with this.” He’s not saying, “I’ll do it if I have to.” He’s saying, “If there’s no other way, I will do it because I love Your Will and obedience to You is life.”
There as a psalm that we usually read at funerals (though I wish we would read it other times as well), in which we read, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, ESV).
We remember that David was a shepherd, and he is using imagery that he would have been well familiar – there were areas – valleys – caves and crags – that the shepherd might need to bring the sheep through to bring them from one place to another – and the sheep needed the shepherd to guide them out and protect them from falling and hurting themselves, and from wild animals catching them in these places, which would have been difficult to escape from. And, if the shepherd was with the sheep, even in these potentially fatal places, they would not fear, because the shepherd would protect and guide them.
Similarly, God – and we know Jesus called Himself, “the Good Shepherd” – when we are obeying God, when we are following His Will, if we are acting based on God’s Word, even when we find ourselves in frightful places, like confronting Pharaoh of Egypt, or telling your neighbor to come to worship to hear the Gospel, we do not need to fear, because our Good Shepherd is with us, and He has His rod to beat back the evil that seeks to assault us, and He has His staff to lead and guide us as we keep straying off the path.
What are you afraid to do that God has said to do? What do you think is just too much? What do you think other people will look down on you for? If you are doing what God has said to do – what God wants – don’t be afraid, and remember that God will be with you with His rod and staff.
Faith in God’s Word enables us not to fear evil.
The second example of Moses’ faith is found in the second phrase, “for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”
What are we talking about here? What does it mean that he “endured”? And what does it mean when we are told that he was “seeing” God who is invisible?
The word that is used for “endure” in our text is only used this one time in the Scripture and it means he “had strength against evil and patience in danger.” He had strength against evil and patience in danger because he was “seeing” God who is invisible. The word that is used for “seeing” is the common meaning – that he saw with his eyes – he perceived with his eyes. And so we ask ourselves, when did Moses see God with his eyes?
Again, our first thought may be of shortly after he became a shepherd, when we read:
“Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, …’” (Exodus 3:1-8a, ESV).
In the history of the burning bush, God appears to Moses and, as the text continues. God commands Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people go. And Moses responded, “Well, I need a name to give them – it’s been forty years since I was there, and they won’t listen to me,” so God told him His Name. And then Moses said, “Ok, maybe the Hebrews will believe me, by what will make Pharaoh believe me,” so God enable Moses to do several miracles. And then Moses said, “Well, I really not such a great speaker, have you met my brother, Aaron, now there’s a great speaker,” and God told Moses that Aaron could go with him, but Moses was going.
Now, is this what the author of Hebrews is referring to? Is this incident, where Moses gives every excuse he could think of, the second example of his faith? Is this when he saw God with his eyes?
And here we have a problem, don’t we: Moses saw a burning bush, and he heard the voice of God, but he didn’t see God with his eyes.
And so we think, wait a minute; didn’t Moses see God with his eyes on Mount Sinai? Moses asked to see God’s Face with his eyes, but God only allowed him to see a reflection of the backside of His Glory. Why was that – and what is the major problem we have in finding this example, “’But,’ [God] said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’” (Exodus 33:20, ESV).
No one can see the Face of God because He is invisible, and our eyes are not equipped to see the invisible, and if God allowed us to see the fullness of His Glory, we would be instantly dead before Him, because His Holy Glory must destroy evil, and everything in us which is not yet holy would be dead.
So, how do we resolve this problem? The author of Hebrews says that Moses saw God with his eyes, and that is why he was able to endure the trials that would occur over the next forty years of his life, until they reached the Promised Land.
The answer is found in answering another question: what was Moses doing for the forty years between running away from Egypt in fear and seeing the burning bush?
“Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1, ESV).
Moses was being a shepherd, wandering through the wilderness, viewing the creation, caring for the sheep, for those forty years.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, ESV).
Paul explains that the existence of God, His Eternal Power, and His Divine Nature are absolutely obvious to everyone – the Creation clearly portrays God. Paul says that through the Creation God is clearly perceived – God is clearly seen – through a knowledge of His Attributes and through trusting in Him Who is revealed.
Moses learned about the Hebrew God from the slaves in Egypt, but he saw God and learned to endure – to be strong against evil and to be patient in danger – through his forty years as a shepherd – guiding and protecting the sheep and viewing the Creation and seeing God as He has revealed Himself for all to see in the Creation.
We can see God even more clearly, because we have the written Word of God. We do not merely have what God has revealed about Himself through the Creation – which is enough, indeed, to know that God exists and to know something of His Attributes and His Divinity. But we have before us in the written Word of God all that we need to know for life and salvation. We have the promise, the prophecies, and the revelation of Jesus Christ, the One God and Only Savior – something we could not know, merely through the Creation. So, we have even more reason to be able to hold fast to what we know about God, as we receive His Word by faith, that we would be able to stand strong against evil and be patient in danger.
We have the great gift of having the Word of God bound that we can read every day that we might see God every day and know Him better every day, that having seen Him, we will be able to endure whatever comes our way.
Let me give one example:
Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German pastor and theologian in the 1930’s. His most famous work of theology was The Cost of Discipleship. When the political tide turned and it looked as though a furor would ascend to power, Bonheoffer went on the radio to denounce the political system. Soon after Adolf Hitler rose to power, Bonheoffer joined the Christian resistance and even took part in an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life. For this attempt, Bonheoffer was arrested in 1943 and sentenced to death. While he awaited his execution, he endured as he wrote, taught, and counseled others in the concentration camp on the teachings of Christ. The day before the camp was liberated by the Allies, Bonheoffer was hanged to death for crimes against the state. As he approached the gallows, Bonheoffer spoke his final words, “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life!”
Faith in God and His Word enable us not to fear evil.
Faith in God and His Word enable us to endure trial.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the example of the faith of Moses. We thank You for giving us Your Word through faith, and we ask the You would draw us to You Word – that we would seek it out and desire to read it and know You better. Help us, as we know You better, to follow after Your Will, and to not fear evil, but to endure all things for Your Sake. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.