Sunday, December 10, 2017

Rock of Escape

Listen to the podcast of the sermon titled Rock of Escape.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Prophecy of 1 Samuel 23:7-13

Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. (1 Samuel 23:7-13)

It's easy to get fascinated by the conditional foreknowledge of God in this passage.  God tells David what will happen if he chooses a certain path, David decides to not go down that particular path, and the foreseen event does not take place.  This is the stuff science fiction alternate timelines are made of.  This is the basis for the multiverse, a philosophical theory which tries to disprove God by building an infinite number of possibilities for existence to happen naturally.

But, we can't miss the prophecy in this passage (which I ignored this past Sunday) that this Godly prediction of what MAY happen to David, and did not, actually DID happen.  This is a prophecy of Christ.

The devil was quite pleased at the incarnation.  The father had made the drastic "mistake" of giving his son into the enemy's hand.  What foolish action could be worse than the incarnation?  In the parable of the wicked tenants, they laugh as they say to themselves, "here comes his son!  Now the inheritance will be ours when we kill him!"  Christ was made vulnerable, emptied into the form of a mere man, who could be killed. On earth there is no place to hide, and so it was only a matter of time for Satan to be satisfied in his conquest of the Lord's life.

Furthermore, Jesus knew all of this.  He knew that he was to be killed, but he knew that his death would a victory over the devil, not a loss.  Whereas David left Keilah, in order to avoid his fate, Jesus remained, and he even walked into the danger, knowing that it must happen for the salvation of the world.  The devil wants the destruction of the whole church on Christ's account, and what David asked the Lord came true: the world turned Jesus over to the devil in order to save itself.  We crucified Christ.  Jesus also told us that after he was gone, the world was going to continue to persecute the church on his account.  Read the newspapers and see that this prophecy, too, has come to pass.  We surrendered our savior into the hands of evil men, and as a result, the evil men continue to persecute us for his sake.

So, when David asks the Lord if Saul will come down, the Lord does not lie.  The spirit of Saul, the false church, does come down. And the men of Keilah, the city that David saved from destruction in the previous passage, does surrender the savior over to evil men.  The church is saved from destruction by the very act of turning the savior over to evil men.  The very idea that our wickedness toward Christ becomes the very act that sets up eternal salvation for believers testifies to the truth of scripture.  The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  Repent and believe the gospel.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Urim and Thummim

Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. (1 Samuel 23:7-13)

1. What we have here is David, in the midst of great trials, consulting the Lord, and the Lord helping him directly.  Why does David need the ephod that Abiathar brought with him?  Because in the breastplate of the priestly garment are the Urim and Thummim.  What are they?  They are precious stones that are used to cast lots for yes/no answers from the Lord.  They are not used many times in the Bible, only when necessary.

2. Notice that what the Lord directly tells David will happen ACTUALLY DOES NOT HAPPEN.  God knows the conditional future as well as the actual future.  He tells what will happen to David if he remains in Keilah--a disaster!  So, David leaves Keilah, and the horrible occurrence does not take place.  God is not only omniscient in the past, present, and future, but he knows what would have happened in certain cases.  David has free will, and the Lord knows each avenue that David's free will will take.  However, what actually happens is what is foreordained by God, in order to advance his purposes in the salvation of the world.

3. This practice of casting lots for yes/no answers from the Lord was reserved for the high priest and even then was not used often. In 1 Samuel, we have a couple of instances where the king uses the ephod, but the average believer is not to do so.  Also, priests today are not to do so.  Not only do we have passages of scripture prohibiting consulting oracles, but looking at Exodus 28 will show us something important:

So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly. (Exodus 28:29-30)

4. The high priest has the burden of his people upon his heart.  Their names are literally upon his heart in the ephod.  Also, the Urim and Thummim are in the breastplate over his heart.  As the text says, "Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord."  At the time of Exodus, the Israelites had begun their wandering in the wilderness.  Like David, this was a time of great trial upon the people.  Aaron, the high priest, had the burden of their judgment upon him.  In the midst of trial, Israel can consult with the Lord directly through the high priest.

5. Things have changed since Christ.  The ceremonial law of the priesthood is gone, because we do not need Aaron and his ephod and the Urim and Thummim.  We have a great high priest in heaven, who is interceding for us in the midst of our trials.  We don't have the Urim and Thummim, because we have the Word of God, the scriptures that show us the living Word of God, Jesus.  Everything we need to know about living in God's will can be found within its pages.  Let's look at 1 Peter 4:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19)

6. As Israel entrusted its souls to Aaron, so we entrust our souls to the one who is always faithful and will save our lives eternally--Jesus, the great high priest.  The burden of our judgment is upon him and him alone.

7. As Christians, we are to go through fiery trials that test us and sanctify us before the Lord.  This is a good thing.  We are lied to when we are told that we need to have our best life now.  I'd be very worried if I were having my best life now, because that means that the life to come will be tremendously horrid.  As Christians, we do not suffer for unrepentant sin.  We do not suffer as haters and time-wasters and busybodies.  No, as Christians we are set upon by the world.  The Lord allows the world to persecute us and the devil to tempt us, so that his glory is revealed in us and we will repent and rejoice.  We are in the wilderness.  We are on the run from Saul, and we don't have an ephod with Urim and Thummim, but we do have the Bible for comfort and encouragement.  Peter says we share in Christ's sufferings, and it is easy to forget that, so we go to the scriptures and we read...

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31)

8. Christ suffered.  He was persecuted without cause.  But the persecutors will suffer a worse fate.  Ours is only suffered in this life, but in the life to come, we have life everlasting in Christ, where there is no more pain and no more tears.  Today, there is mourning.  We need to pray and weep for our children, that the Lord will spare us and them from eternal destruction.  When we are persecuted by the world, we have a great testimony to God's grace upon us, because Christ suffered likewise, and when the world commits such atrocities against a "green tree", what will the world of dry trees suffer when the end comes?  They will wish they and their children had never been born, and they will desire to have the mountains cover them, in order to hide from the Lord.

9. What does the Lord want of you?  Consult the scriptures.  In the midst of trials, we can turn to the Word of God for guidance.  Ignore the new church of prosperity that tells you that suffering is a result of your failure to love God. The world hates God, and so suffers from his wrath. If you have a penitent faith in Christ, you will suffer, too, but yours will be the suffering of Christ, partaking in his righteousness and experiencing great joy at his glory.  The Urim and Thummim can be found on the cross.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Ephod

When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. (1 Samuel 23:6)

Abiathar is the only surviving member of Ahimelech's family, who were all wiped out by Saul for assisting the renegade David in his flight. Abiathar flees to David and David promises to protect him, and it seems here in this isolated verse that Abiathar has brought an ephod with him. An ephod is the garment of a priest, and it is highly symbolic in this context, because David, the rightful king of Israel, is on the run, and he has now been given this symbol. Jesus, too, is rightful king and priest of a world that rejects him and persecutes him. Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, of Martin Luther posting his grievances on the door in Whittenburg. One of the aspects of the Reformation was connecting the common man directly with Jesus through the scriptures translated in the vernacular language. Jesus is the great high priest, and until we had the scriptures in our own language, we had to trust in the priests to connect us to Christ through a confusing Latin Mass. Martin Luther and the printing press started the process of getting the ephod to the son of David, where it rightly belonged.

As we see in Leviticus 10, the priesthood is a flawed institution when in the hands of men. Nadab and Abihu offer strange fire to the Lord and are destroyed. Aaron, their father, is so grieved by this tragedy, and full of resentment and sin, that he is unable to eat the sin offering for the atonement of the congregation. Likewise, a man cannot atone for the sins of others, because his own sin is in the way and must be atoned for first.

In Leviticus 16, God gives Moses a complicated choreography of offerings and motions for a sinful priest to be able to atone for the sins of the congregation, but these complex instructions only show how inadequate humans are and how important it is to have a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. All of this prefigures Christ.

Once again the book of Hebrews is our enlightening star. Jesus had to become a man 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 (2:17). Because he was faithful to the commandments and did not sin, he does not have to atone for his own. Because he is God, his blood is sufficient for all. Jesus is a priest, not because he is descended through the levitical order, but because he has the power of an indestructible life (7:15).

And Christ is not just a priest, he is the great high priest. Aaron was a priest in weakness, but Christ is perfect and therefore the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (5:9). Because Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, no complex instructions for tabernacle patterns is necessary. Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises (8:6).

Without Luther and the Reformation bringing this knowledge to the common people by way of the scriptures in the vulgar tongue, we would still be lost in a dead language, an imperfect earthly system that confuses the once-for-all sacrifice on the cross with a continual re-sacrifice at the hands of a sinful priest, and a lack of assurance of salvation due to a lack of Christ as liaison between heaven and earth.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Keilah

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David's men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. (1 Samuel 23:1-5)

1. There may be something to the Philistines robbing Keilah of "Cain's offering" and David capturing "Abel's offering" in return, but since nothing is written about it, it will remain something to mediate on.

2. The main significance of this passage is the prayer.  David asks the Lord if he should attack.  Of course, in David's situation, his army is not a formidable force.  It is only composed of fellow desperate people.  Even though the Lord responds (probably through the prophet Gad) that he should attack, the men are sorely afraid, so David asks again.  The Lord responds that he will, indeed, give the Philistines over into David's hand, and so David proceeds with the attack.  David saves Keilah.

3. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus brings his disciples and has them wait near him, so he can pray.  He takes with him Peter, James, and John, and he begins to be afraid.  His divinity is minimized at this point, and his humanity is coming to the forefront.  He possesses a great heaviness, which he tells the three apostles about.  He describes his heaviness as the approach of death.  He then tells them to wait where they are and watch.

4. Going forward a little, Jesus falls to the ground and pleads from his humanity that the Lord might take his impeding sacrifice away.  But he submits himself fully to the father's will in perfect obedience.

5. The watchers fail three times.  Peter, James, and John are unable to stay awake each time.  The third time Jesus returns he tells them, "Sleep hence forth and take your rest.  The hour has come."  Christ means that, even though their watchfulness was weak, it was enough.  Their task is over, and Christ has passed the final test of human doubt.  Christ saves the world.

6. As Romans 8:26-27 reads, God's Spirit helps us in our infirmities, because we do not know how to pray or what to pray for.  But God's spirit prays through us, giving expression to what we are unable to express.  God searches through all hearts and knows what is in them.  He not only stirs up hearts to pray but shows the heart to whom to pray and how. Our prayers are to be for saints and potential saints, and the prayers themselves are to be according to the will of God.

7. So, even though the three apostles "failed" and fell asleep, through their infirmities God succeeded in the keeping watch.  What was the watch for? Not, it seems, for the people that were coming to capture Jesus but for his humanity's faith in the task at hand to be restored.

8. We must stay awake now, though, for we do not know at what hour the end will come, and we must be prepared. The incarnation of Christ is a warning to all the world to turn from our sin and live.  When Christ comes again, anyone who did not heed his message will have to pay for his own sins for eternity.  All who did heed Christ will have placed their full trust and faith in him for the forgiveness of their sins and have everlasting life.  When we keep watch, we are to be on watch for the best interests of the saints and potential saints. Sharing the gospel of forgiveness of sins would be in the best interests of our people.  Being a watchman is sharing the gospel.

9. David trusted God and fought the Philistines, but God was the one who won the battle.  All David needed was to trust in the Lord.  God works through even our doubt and weakness.  We cry out, "I believe! Help my unbelief!" when we hear that God has forgiven our sins through the shedding of Christ's blood.  The Spirit of God does just that.  We are saved through faith alone, and the rest of our earthly life is the Spirit helping our unbelief.  Your sins have been forgiven!  Believe!