Sunday, October 18, 2020
Who Can Stand Before Him?
1 Samuel 5:1-7:1; Remsen Bible Fellowship; 10/04/2020
Do you find yourself concerned about the world? Wondering what God is up to amidst the chaos?
There is a right way and a wrong way to experience such concern.
We should see and mourn sin. We should especially see and mourn our sin, cf Isaiah 6:5
But we should never be concerned about God’s control over events. He takes the blackest darkest night, and is working his will
We will see three truths about God in our text; God’s Supremacy, God’s Severity, & God’s Sanctity
But first, we must remember the dark night of the circumstance, 1 Samuel 4:22
The ark of God had gone into exile, v21 & 22
God’s Supremacy, 5:1-5
v1-2, The Philistines carry away the ark and place it in the temple of their god, Dagon
a Canaanite god whom the Philistines adopted and placed at the top of their pantheistic order
God of agriculture/storms
The God whose feast Samson ruined in Judges 16:23-30
They aren’t opposed to believing there is a YHWH, they just assume that Dagon must be more powerful
V3, what does it say about the power of Dagon that he falls flat before YHWH?
What kind of God is it that the people must help back into place? Isaiah 44:9-20
The people do not understand the deep irony involved in propping your idol back into place
V4, The same thing happens: but this time God knocks off Dagon’s head and his hands (battlefield trophies)
The falling off of the head denotes that there is no mind in an idol (Psalm 135:15-18).
It also points forward to 17:51. Broke off is the same Hebrew verb as cut off in that context
The removal of the hands denotes Dagon’s total lack of power next to YHWH.
While Dagon’s hands have been removed, we will see in the next section the God’s hand lies heavy upon the Philistines
V5, we are given an explanation for a custom of the Philistines which it seems the original readers were familiar with
While the Philistines obviously interpreted their great military defeat of Israel to be a display of their own strength and the awesomeness of their gods, what we find is quite different
God is not a victim of the Philistines and their gods
YHWH executes judgement on Dagon, he takes up his own battle Exodus 15:1-3ff
God has gone onto enemy turf, as it were, and walked away the obvious victor
Where do you set God up in your life? What temples do you try to bring God into, asking for his help with your idolatry? Are you trying to baptize sin?
God will not be party to this. He will be seen as supreme
There is none like Him, Psalm 86:8, 89:6-7
God reigns supreme in and over the universe. There is none who compares to him
God’s Severity, 5:6-6:16
The Israelites had viewed the presence of God, represented by the ark, as a sort of good luck charm or guarantee for victory (1 Sam 4:3-5)
God’s presence among them had not brought victory, though-it ushered in defeat
The presence of a holy God among sinful humanity brings Judgement
v6, throughout this passage we read of “tumors”
We don’t know the nature of the plague; tumors, lesions, boils, hemorrhoids?
Could it be bubonic plague? Highly deadly, carried by rodents (cf 6:4, 11). But not attested to in history until some centuries after this
Whatever the nature, it has devastating
Do you remember what we said another word for glory is? Weight. Or heaviness
The weight of God had departed from Israel, but his almighty hand now lay heavy on Philistia
V4, Dragons hands are gone: but YHWH’s work just fine
V6a, was heavy
7b, is hard against us
9, was against the city
11b, was very heavy there
6:3, does not turn
6:5b, perhaps he will lighten
6:9b, his hand that struck us
That God’s presence was among the Philistines goes from being their point of pride to their greatest trauma
By 5:11, the whole city of Ekron is pleading that the ark not come near
Literally near me and my people, cf Exodus 8:8
They are desperate to be rid of God, so they call together the Diviners to ask how to be rid of this box
6:4, we see a common practice: placate the deity by repeating his work
V7-9, try an unlikely scheme that would be hard to duplicate by chance
V12 tells us this was a success. It had been God’s hand, all along
What should we take from God’s severity with the Philistines? Were they not his instruments against Israel?
They were-and they were volitional actors, responsible for their sins. God is perfectly capable of using sinful human or nation A in his dealing with sinful human or nation B, while still holding A responsible. This is not hypocritical, this is his perfect control over all things.
Israel had all but abandoned God, and needed to be reminded that his presence is what they needed, not in some cultic sense, but they needed his personal presence to bless, which they would only experience by hearing, believing, and obeying his word. He used the Philistines to remind them of this need
The Philistines, at the same time, must be shown that it is not by their own power that Israel fell, and they too are guilty before this God whom they thought they had conquered
We won’t turn, but for more like this: Habakkuk
6:16, after the five lords see the return of the ark and the sacrifice of the cows, they return home
v17-18, what is this stone witnessing to?
God’s total victory over all of the Philistines
God’s hand rested severely upon the Philistines
God’s Sanctity, 6:13-15, 6:19-7:1
In v13-15, we get a good response from the men of Beth-shemesh, they rejoiced to see it
Though the sacrifice is technically not right (should have been bulls, not these milk cows, Lev 1), the narrator gives no indication that this is frowned upon
They are finding their joy in the return of the ark from exile
It seems for a moment that the story will end happily, but moment we get go v19, we find God continuing to strike
The reason, some form of irreverence. Gazing into, or at. The Levites (v15) should know that the ark is to remain covered
The number, 70 or 50,070? MT 70 men, 50,000 men. Some Heb Manuscripts, LXX, etc, 70.
There probably weren’t 50,000 men in this village-much more likely is the 70 number-but even at that, imagine a village the size of Remsen-and 70 people die!
The people realize that they cannot stand before the holiness of God, for He judges and punishes sin
So the ark is taken away to Kiriath-jearim and the house of Abinadab, and rests there for 20 years (7:1).
Here at the end of this ark narrative, the people are still learning the lesson they needed at the front end-God’s presence isn’t always good for you.
It is the deepest need of every human and people
But it is a sign of sure judgement if we don’t have our sin dealt with
In conclusion, I want to meditate for a moment on 6:20
Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?
Psalm 130:3-4: Same question, who can stand?
With you there is forgiveness-how? Colossians 2:13-15, nailed to the cross
For those who cling to Christ, the record that stands against us and would condemn us has been removed, paid in full, Romans 8:1
That you may be feared: Even for the believer in Jesus Christ, there is a right reverence and fear of the Lord. We cannot treat him like a trinket or take him for granted
We pray our Father-we must revere him as the Holy Father he is, but unlike the men of Beth-shemesh, we shouldn’t run away from the holiness, or ask him to leave-we should be thankful for his provision in Christ, a provision which allows even sinners like us to stand before this Holy God
Who can stand before him? Only those clothed in the precious blood of Christ. In my hand no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling
Monday, September 21, 2020
The Faithfulness of God
1 Samuel 2, Remsen Bible Fellowship, 09/13/2020
If you weren’t here last week, we’re jumping into 1 Samuel
This is a book of unknown author, date
3 main figures: Samuel (last judge), Saul (1st king), David (great king)
We’re planning to cover this book over roughly 7 months, and so that’s going to require a speed where we don’t always talk about every part of every verse
I’d use the analogy of travel: we aren’t going to walk around and see every bush and flower, or we’d be here for years and never understand the lay of the land more broadly; nor are we flying a plane, looking at the big picture with no concept of the particulars; we driving along the interstate noticing some details, stopping at especially important overlooks, balancing speed and scope with attention to certain details
For example, this morning we’ll move through Hannah’s prayer and then more quickly through the narrative
Samuel’s story begins in ch 1 with the story of his mother & her prayer for a son
She promises to dedicate this son to the Lord
The chapter ends with her fulfilling that vow
We come to chapter two, and the first thing we encounter is Hannah’s prayer
Hannah’s Prayer; v1-10
Hannah’s prayer breaks into three sections:
Read 1-3, personal salvation
Hannah begins with her experience of God’s salvation
It’s easy to talk about how God works in big broad terms, but that becomes personal for us when we see his salvation in our own lives
Hannnah’s horn, her strength is lifted by God
This causes her to see that there is none like him (v2), and that one shouldn’t be arrogant (v3)
Read 4-8, how Yahweh works
Hannah moves from her personal experience (and doubtless her knowledge of Israel’s history) to see that this God who had helped her in her affliction was acting in a way in line with his character
He is the Lord over all things (v6-7)
And he pays particular attention to those who are needy (4-5, 7-8)
This cuts across the grain of American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” “God helps those who help themselves” religion
God helps those who understand that they are destitute, and turn to him for help
John Calvin, after the death of his wife, wrote to a friend: “May the Lord Jesus … support me … under this heavy affliction, which would certainly have overcome me, had not He, who raises up the prostrate, strengthens the weak, and refreshes the weary, stretched forth His hand from heaven to me.”
You might notice in v5 the mention of 7 children, whereas if you look at v21, we only count six for Hannah, including Samuel. But this simply drives home the point that she has moved from looking just at her own experience to seeing that God is the God who brings fulfillment. Whatever the particular number of children given to the barren woman, the point in saying seven is that God completes and fills up her desire with ideal number
Read 9-10, how he will continue to work
In the end, the faithful ones prevail and wickedness is cut off (9)
The adversaries of the Lord will, in the end, be dashed to pieces as God exalts the horn (not only of the Hannah’s of the world, but also) of his anointed ruler, his coming king.
God will judge the world and establish righteousness.
This is an escatalogical promise: one day it will be the rule for all the earth; the prophets predict such a time, as do Jesus and Paul in the new testament.
But it also burst into the time and space we live in, as is about to unfold in the rest of chapter 2 of 1 Samuel.
Two Types of Servant
The rest of 1 Samuel two chronicles a contrast. The Hebrew word “na’ar” is used throughout this passage, translated in various ways (boy, servant, young man/men), but the contrast is clear: There are the faithless and worthless “na’ar”, sons of Eli, who are headed toward being crushed; and the increasingly faithful “na’ar”, Samuel, who is growing in favor both with God and man.
We see the worthlessness of these two spelled out clearly, along with its source, in v12
Liturgical sins: v13-17
There are two distinct actions: those in 13-14, and those in 15-16
Some take the former to be acceptable and normal, and the latter to be the issue
But I think, given that the priests are already given a portion of this offering before it is offered (Leviticus 7:28-36) and that v15 begins with “moreover”, that these are two offenses piled on top of one another
These young men don’t see their role as priests (those who minister to God on behalf of the people) as something to be taken with reverence, instead they seek to use their position of power to leverage personal gain. They are seeking their own advantage (see God’s rebuke in v29)
This sort of self-seeking is seen as contempt for God (v17)
Moral sins: v22-25
Not only are the young men making a farce of worship, they are making a farce of their role as “god’s men”. They are sleeping with the young women who serve at the tabernacle complex, acting as if they were Cannanite’s who had temple prostitutes. Their worship is false, and their lives are false.
How discouraging it is when even those who are supposed to represent God, the pastors and priests and heads of Christian universities, are exposed in the perversity of their sin
Imagine being an Israelite in that day, you couldn’t even offer your praise offering without being harassed by a wicked priest. If only this were harder for us to imagine today
Is God silent? Will he allow the perversity to continue forever? V25b
1 Peter 4:17-18
God’s judgement: v27-26
A man of God comes to Eli with a sobering message: you have been complicit in the sins of your sons. Though I chose you to be my priestly family (v27-28), you have rejected your role by fattening yourselves off my people. So I will cut you off.
The only person in your house who will be left (v33) will be left to grieve, and your two wicked sons will die on the same day (v34, cf ch 4)
You will be replaced (v35). Who is the faithful priest? Probably Zadok (1 Kings 2), not Samuel (who serves as prophet and judge).
God will not be mocked. The sins of Eli’s house were great, and though it seemed for a time: a long time, like God wasn’t going to do anything, judgement was coming. It is worth observing that God’s time frame is not the same as ours. The people of Israel doubtless would have preferred God to move toward justice more speedily. But he was at work, raising up a faithful man.
Note that before we get Eli’s sons, we get one verse of Samuel, v11; ministering
Then, between the two sections on their sins, we read, v18-21; ministering, serving
Sidenote: the gracious, grateful worship of Hannah and Elkanah is responded to by God (through Eli!) with a blessing, v20-21
Finally, before we hear the final rebuke of the chapter, given my the prophet to Eli, we have one final glimpse of Samuel, v26
All through this chapter the sins of Eli’s sons are multiplied and compounded: liturgical, moral, hard heartedness
Yet we find Samuel, ministering, serving, growing in favor with God and man. These two lines on the graph are heading in inverse directions. V3-5, v9-10
We should read this chapter and take a few lessons. First we should be warned by the consequences of wickedness. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). We should also continue to see Hannah as a model of faith and of prayer. Last week we saw her turn to Yahweh because she was desperate, and turn to him because he hears. Today we see her turning to him in overflowing praise for his character and his works. We should also see Samuel as a model of growing faithfulness, even when the influences around were certainly not leading in that direction. But before we conclude I want to make a final point.
We don’t just have models of good and bad behavior in this chapter: we have a haunting question: v25a, cf Romans 3:23
We, according to Romans, are just as implicated by that statement as Eli’s wicked sons. You are just as deserving of condemnation. Have you ever misused your power in a relationship as a parent, perhaps with your spouse or at work. IT’s easy to find yourself manipulating people and situations for no reason other than your personal gain. Or maybe you’ve been guilty of lust. Jesus puts that on par, in terms of guilt before God, with physically following through on adultery.
We need a faithful priest to represent us to God.
V26, cf Luke 2:52
Jesus came as our sin bearer, so that in his death all our sins were paid. But he also serves now as our faithful high priest, the ultimate fulfillment of v35, the one who stands before the Father for us today.
He was the sacrifice, v27b
He lives to make intercession for us, v25
The same God who was at work in the time of the judges in Israel, moving to judge sin and bring forward a faithful servant, has brought forward the perfect servant in the person of his Son. Jesus has absorbed our sin, and now ministers to the Father on our behalf, as the perfect and faithful priest who understands our every weakness, our every need. Lean yourself wholly on him.
Hearing God's Voice
1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a; Remsen Bible Fellowship ; 09/20/2020
Introduction: Our Need
Do you long to hear God’s voice?
Do you desire a word from the Lord?
If you do: fantastic. That is a right desire, and it’s our topic this morning
If you don’t have that desire, if you feel sufficient on your own, let me lean on you a little here - you have no greater need than to hear the word of the Lord
Not having the word of the Lord, not hearing his voice is pictured in Scripture as a form of God’s judgement: Amos 8:11-12, Isaiah 8:16-22
Not to hear from God is to be cast about in utter darkness. Contra, Psalm 119:105
As we come 1 Samuel 3, the whole nation is seen to be under God’s judgement, as the word of the Lord has become rare
Read the Chapter
The Setting of this chapter is early morning in the temple, pre-dawn light, v2-3
The lamp was to stay lit-apparently a job for Samuel because he is young and spry
Note the description of Eli-eyes have grown dim. Physically and spiritually
The whole nation lies in the darkness: but dawn is coming
In v4-10 the Hebrew verb for call, which we have as call or called depending on the tense, occurs 11 times
I want to note 3 characteristics of God’s call to Samuel-2 apply to us, the third does not
1) It is personal. God calls Samuel by name
Every time God calls to someone in Scripture it is by name. This extends to you today
2) It is persistent. God calls Samuel four times
Do you feel like you’ve missed your opportunity to listen to God because you have failed to hear him in the past? 2 Cor 6:2; cf, Ex 3 happens after 40 years in the wilderness for Moses
God isn’t going to speak to you in the same form he did to Samuel, but the the call to hear and heed his word remains the same today
Note v7, Samuel did not yet know the Lord-why? He hadn’t received God’s word
After Eli finally realizes what is going on (how should we feel about this guy?), he gives Samuel wise advice: wait for him to come back, and be ready to listen
When God returns the fourth time, we read of what seems to be a theophany (v10a), and the Lord calls Samuel’s name twice (Ex 3:4)
3) the third characteristic of God’s call to Samuel, the unique part, is it’s to a prophetic ministry
Samuel receives a direct word from the Lord, and his ministry is to deliver that word
In v11-13 the Lord unfolds for Samuel a reiteration of the unnamed prophet’s message from chapter two: the sin is very great, Eli’s sons blasphemed God, Eli failed to restrain them, there remains no sacrifice
Is God being too harsh? Number 15:27-31
Samuel doesn’t seem eager to deliver this message to Eli (v15)
Receiving the word of the Lord is of no value, indeed is dangerous, if we are unwilling to act upon it. Cf Isaiah 8:16-22, God hides his face because they are disobeying
This is the message from Eli to Samuel in v17
In v18 Samuel delivers the uncomfortable news, all of it
This is the task of any messenger of Christ
1) for all of us, sharing the good news of the gospel includes sharing the bad news about sin.
2) This is particularly true for preachers of the Gospel. God’s kills & makes alive (1 Samuel 2:6) by his word (John 1:2, Revelation 19:11-15)
Hold me accountable, and should I die or move (hopefully decades in the future), this is the #1 criteria in a pastor-will he preach in season and out of season? 2 Timothy 4:2
This sort of proclamation, whether in a personal conversation or in the public preaching, demands a response
Are you willing to hear this kind of uncomfortable word from the lord? v18
In v19-4:1a, Samuel is established. He grew, none of his words fall to the ground, Dan to Beersheeba (the whole nation) knows that he is a prophet, God reveals himself to Samuel by his word, and all the nation hears it
Note the close association with what the prophet says and what God says, 3:21, 4:1
But this takes us back to the distinctness of Samuel’s call, and the difference between his day and ours
It that day, the word was rare (3:1), and it comes common (4:1) via God speaking to one person, and that person relaying the message to everyone
This actually marks a shift in Israel’s history: Samuel is the first in a continuous line of prophets
We won’t turn there, but Deuteronomy 18:15ff gives a prophecy of a great prophet like Moses to come, and then the test for any other prophets who come in between Moses & the one to come (their words had to prove true)
With Samuel, the word of the Lord goes from being rare and uncommonly heard, to there always being a prophetic presence in Israel, speaking God’s word to his people. This continues to be the case until the close of the OT canon, some 400 years before the birth of Christ.
But then God goes silent-until the last of the OT style prophets hits the scene: John the Baptist
But John is not the Prophet (John 1:21)
He point to the One who is
Hebrews 1:1-4, God has revealed himself perfectly in the person of his Son
No longer are visions (v2) needed, Jesus is the vision, the icon, the perfect picture
God reveals himself to us through this written word-the Scriptures-all of which (John 5) point to the Living and Eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ
We receive him by believing all that this book says about him Romans 10:17
The great gift of our day is that we are no longer having to wait on God to send a special message through any particular mere human: he sent the perfect man, the God man, to reveal the full character of his nature.
To hear the voice of God in our day no longer requires some out of body experience or a voice from heaven: we can simply open the book and pray, show me Christ
We come to church, coming as the body of Christ, and the task of the preacher is to make clear to the gathered body the word of the Lord
“God’s word—written, preached, welcomed—is the token [sign] of God’s grace to God’s people.”
We come to hear Our Lord whom we are to obey, we come to hear our Savior whom we are to trust, and we come to hear our Bridegroom and closest friend who will comfort us in every affliction.
Brothers and sisters, you need to hear the voice of God. You need to hear the word of Christ. Pick up the book and read! Turn on your audio Bible and listen! Gather with the church week by week as we come together in submission to his word, to hear from the only One whose words give life. Hebrews 2:1-3a
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