The Savior’s Character

Savior's NamesYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we were introduced to a man named Ahaz, king of the southern kingdom of Judah. He was on the receiving end of an Assyrian army bent on advancing their country while destroying all that stood in their path. Not only was Judah threatened by this massive Assyrian army, they were threatened by the continuing moral degradation led by their king. They were a nation of God’s people, yet the people were far from God. In Isaiah 7, we saw that Isaiah was sent to remind Ahaz to rest in God with the words, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” (Is. 7:9) God even said there would be a virgin that would conceive a child. That was the sign of the Savior.  This morning we’ll look at the character of the Savior.

Take a look at Isaiah 9:1-7.

 You would think that Ahaz, who by all accounts was raised in a godly home, would seek refuge in the One that can help. Ahaz discarded wise counsel from Isaiah and had to face the music resulting from his disobedience. He went ahead with his alliance with Assyria. Rom. 1:18 describes it this way: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in  unrighteousness.” Ahaz and those that followed him suppressed the truth. Isaiah 8 details how this happened. Despair and gloom descended on Judah.  Ahaz and the majority of the people of Judah had departed from God; so God handed them over to their sin and to their enemies. The northern-most part of Israel was feeling the Assyrian army coming down on them. As it became increasingly apparent that the godless plans of Ahaz were failing, the people began turning to superstition and the occult to find guidance. According to 2 Kings 16:3, king Ahaz even burned his son as an offering to the false gods of the Canaanites. It was a time of moral darkness, frustration, anger, and hopelessness under the judgment of God. Is this to be expected for those who depart from the Lord? Is judgment God’s only response to the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men? As the anti-Christian sentiment grows here and abroad, you might conclude that God is judging us and we ask ourselves as David did in Ps. 94:3, “How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult?”

We are not in an age of despair, but an age of hope. We are warned with judgment to flee from wickedness and immorality. And we are also drawn by the Holy Spirit with love and kindness to turn to God. God has a glorious plan that sufficiently and completely deals with wickedness and sin. It is the good news of grace. Between Chapters 8 and 9, something happens to Isaiah. Isaiah is describing what’s going to happen to the people of Judah because of their rebellion and all of a sudden, he’s talking about things to come for mankind. Instead of war, Isaiah sees the boots of soldiers burned in the fire. Right in the middle of the war, there is something critical for us. V. 2 tells us, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Light will come to those that are in the dark. There is hope. There is still an opportunity to turn to God. That opportunity is available to you as well. In 1741, it was this section of Scripture that moved a man to compose an oratorio with perhaps the greatest chorus of all time.

In Handel’s Messiah, we see God’s character. Look at how Isaiah describes God’s character in vs. 6-7. He says. “A child will be born to us. A son will be given to us.” It is a real, physical birth. The child is human. That child is given to us. Remember who Isaiah is talking to. He is a gift to us.

Jo. 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
2 Cor. 9:15: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
Eph. 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” “And the government will rest on His shoulders.”
In Matt. 28:18 Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Eph. 1:22 tells us that, “He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.”

He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Then Isaiah gives some names to this One that would be born. Call Him wonderful Counselor.  This literally means wonder of a counselor. Wonderful means marvelous, extraordinary, beyond the normal capacity to perform. The counsel of God in the flesh transcends human wisdom. Rom. 11:34 asks the question, “For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?” His ways are unfathomably deep. He is in a category by Himself. He is the supernatural counselor. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstances, no matter the person, He is able to provide perfect counsel and guidance.  He knows exactly what needs to be done. His course of action is perfect. When you are in need, look to the wonderful Counselor. Call Him the mighty God. Literally the heroic, strong God. This child is God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity and possessor of all the power of God. He is omnipotent. When you connect this name with wonderful Counselor, you get the idea that God in the flesh possesses the ability to carry out to completion all that His plans call for. He is able to say, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Is. 46:10) We tend to grow weak and weary, God does not. He does not sleep.

Call Him everlasting Father.  He is eternal. This child would be father to you and to me. He is always loving; always planning the best for us. Ps. 103:13-14: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” God knows our limitations and strengths, He knows our time frames, He knows what must be accomplished and what time is available to us. Call Him the Prince of peace.  He is the Prince of peace and according to v. 7, “There will be no end to the increase of His government.”  He will conquer the hearts of His people, He will start something as a child that v. 7 says will never stop growing and He will not do it by force, but with gentleness and with peace. The Lord has all it takes to accomplish His plans and will always do what is right and best for us. He draws us with kindness and unending faithfulness and goodness. Our desire should be to do God’s will.

Isaiah saw Him coming; the One that is God’s answer for sinners like you and me. He saw Jesus, the wonderful Counselor; He came with wisdom and purpose, with a perfect plan. Follow Him. As the mighty God, He will accomplish all His plans. Satan tried everything he could to thwart God’s plan through the baby Immanuel. Trust in Him. Rest in Him. He loves us endlessly. Enter into His presence. He reconciles us while we are still his enemies. Trust Him and welcome His guidance in your life. Rom. 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus is the greatest King; the King of all kings whose kingdom and peace will never stop expanding. He is the Rescuer and the Redeemer. He is Jesus, God with us.

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The Savior’s Sign

Virgin BirthYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

He is considered one of the greatest men of God from the olden days. He was a counselor to kings and a writer whose O.T. book is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other except the book of Psalms. When Jesus preached His first sermon, He preached out of a passage from this man’s writings. His calling from God is one of the most beautiful pictures in Scripture. “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” (Is. 6:1-4) This man would be inspired to say things about the Lord so incredible that it boggles our mind. is name is Isaiah and he is a prophet.

Isaiah 7:10-17 is a familiar passage to people in and out of the church and I encourage you to get your Bible and read this incredible passage for yourself.

You’ve heard the saying, desperate times call for desperate measures? This passage comes just after Isaiah answers the call of God in 6:1-4. Isaiah finds himself right in the middle of some pretty intense political action. Isaiah 7:1-2 sets the stage for us. At some point in our lives, every one of us will face desperate times. Circumstances present themselves that may bring us to the edge of despair where there seem to be few options and time is running out. In this passage I want you so see some things that put Judah’s king Ahaz on the edge of despair. Ahaz was an unstable man. He had a godly father and grandfather, but he did not follow in their footsteps. Having godly relatives is no guarantee of godly children. Unless a child personally chooses to enter into a biblical relationship with God through Christ, he will leave that home one day without the tools necessary to face the world.

I don’t know everything about Ahaz, but this much is clear. His life can be summed up as recorded in 2 Kings 16:2, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done.” He is not in a wilderness period and he is not sowing his wild oats. He did not do what is right in God’s eyes. Ahaz is probably in his early twenties and he is confronted with a very serious national crisis, but he doesn’t possess the life experience or spiritual resources necessary to effectively handle it. To make a really long story short, Assyria and the northern kingdom of Israel joined forces to invade the southern kingdom of Judah. Against the guidance of God’s prophets, Israel formed an alliance with Assyria in an effort to defend against what they knew was coming from Assyria. It was a, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em scenario. It was Assyria’s practice to invade and conquer neighboring countries and take the people prisoner. Assyria’s  goal was to invade Judah and get rid of king Ahaz. Verse 2 tells us “His heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” So what’s a king to do? Godly kings seek wise counsel from God and then there is Ahaz. Ahaz was foolish. 2 Kings 17 indicate that Ahaz is going to try and form his own alliance independent of Assyria and Israel only his alliance won’t be against Assyria, it would be with Assyria. Ahaz is planning to buy off Assyria to save himself. You can feel the desperation in Ahaz’s reasoning. So it is with this information that we find the prophet Isaiah called to go talk to king Ahaz in 7:3. Let’s see how this is set up in 7:3-9.

The actual reality is that God always comes through. How many times has God used seemingly incidental things to remind us that He is right there? He is involved in our lives even if we can’t see exactly what He is doing. Here is Ahaz looking over the water supply lines of Judah. Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub walk up to Ahaz. Hebrew names carried a lot of significance. Isaiah means Jehovah has saved. Shear-jashub means a remnant shall return. Standing right in front of Ahaz are reminders of who God is and that He will preserve His people. Remember that Ahaz’s father and grandfather were godly men. God is always bigger than your problems and your fears. In the face of certain defeat, look at what God says through Isaiah in v. 4, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted.” God is saying don’t look for a way out, but look for a way through your difficult situation. 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Do you believe that no situation is too hard for God? For Ahaz, God was trying to show him that his trust must be placed in the One that can handle the problem. V. 9 says, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” Faith, that strong conviction in what you cannot see often stands in the way of God accomplishing what He wants to accomplish. If you do not stand firm, you will fall. God was trying to get Ahaz to believe. To walk by faith, not by sight. To be a follower of God first, then a king.

This is a good time for a miracle. It is at this moment that something incredible takes place. Vs. 10-11 says, “Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz saying, ‘Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’” Isaiah was there to speak to the king on behalf of God and Ahaz doesn’t want to listen; all he can think about is the Assyrian army. Ask whatever you want – no limit. “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD.” Now Ahaz gets all spiritual on Isaiah. He is conveniently forgetting what is going on in Judah: idolatry, human sacrifices, asheroth pole worship, Baal worship. The reality is that Ahaz had already made up his mind and nothing Isaiah said or did would convince him to trust God. Are we like that? Do we seek guidance and counsel from the Scriptures, or do we avoid it because we’ve already made up our minds as to what we will do.

Here is the moment set apart for Isaiah. He turns from the king and begins to speak to the crowd that had gathered. The story continues in vs. 13-14, “Then he said, “Listen now O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” It is God that gives the sign. He doesn’t send an angel or a prophet – God Himself sees to it.

What is the meaning of the sign? This sign is meant to get our attention. V. 13 starts with “Listen now.” Pay attention to what is coming. This sign proves that God can do whatever He wants to do. Sign means a signal or a distinguishing mark. It is something that is obvious, something that will stand out. This sign involves the birth of a son after an impossible pregnancy. A virgin will conceive. Isaiah tells everyone that at some point a woman will conceive a child that simply cannot be explained.  When you see that, that is God’s handiwork. This sign means that God is coming in the flesh. His name is Immanuel meaning God with us. God will be with us in the flesh. He will dwell among us. We will see and experience His glory. 700 hundred years later, that sign was realized. A young woman named Mary was engaged to a guy named Joseph. An angel appeared and told her what to expect. Luke 1:31 records the words of the prophet, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.”

If God can cause a woman to conceive in a miraculous manner, why do you doubt that He can take care of you? The birth of Immanuel, God with us, served as a sign for people desperate to see God working. When all seems hopeless to us, God already has a plan in place, has already set the process in motion. Before you even realized you need Him, He is already there. Sometimes it takes being in the pit of despair to see the hope of a Savior. Immanuel means God with us, not God might be here one day if you’re really good.

Proverbs – An Introduction

WisdomYou can listen to the podcast here.

We kick off a new series here at C4. I’m sure many people are aware of some of the things they will hear in this study, but may not know that it originated from the Bible. As we dig into the Scriptures, we find there is an inexhaustible wealth of knowledge and wisdom contained within its pages. The Bible can lead people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by grace through faith, and it can also teach mature believers truth that will change our lives. In an age where common sense has become uncommon, the book of Proverbs provides truth and wisdom so we can reject harmful and wrong behavior in order to authentically pursue Christ. Proverbs deals with normal, ordinary aspects of life from social skills, marriage and parenting to stewardship and personal disciplines. I encourage you to read a chapter of Proverbs each day, every month and learn from its incredible truths.

If you go back in the family tree of Israel’s leaders, you’ll find some wonderful people. One of my favorite Old Testament books is Ruth. It’s a great story of redemption not just for Ruth, but for us too because Boaz is an illustration of Christ’s redemption for mankind. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. David is one of the greatest characters of Scripture and is described as a man after God’s own heart. While David did many great things, he is known for some not so great things. One of those is the story of David and Bathsheba. The son that was conceived in adultery would later die as a result of David’s sin. But David and Bathsheba had another son named Solomon.

Prov. 1:1 tells us these are, “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” A proverb is an ethical teaching, a short pithy saying; it states a general truth or a piece of advice. The proverbs we’ll look at in this series can be trusted. They are from God’s mouth. How did Solomon get to this position? I hope you’ll take the time and get your Bible so you can follow along. Read 1 Ki. 2:1-4. David had some other things to say to Solomon and we come to 1 Ki. 2:10-12. So Solomon becomes the third king of Israel about 970 B.C. We don’t know how old he is, but many scholars believe he was about 12-14 years old when he becomes king. 1 Ki. 3:3 says, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” Notice that Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of David.

This sets up a remarkable dream sequence in which God appears to Solomon. In the dream God says to Solomon, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” (1 Ki. 3:5) Solomon’s request is found in 1 Ki. 3:6-9. He first acknowledges the covenant God made with David that was prophesied by Nathan in 2 Sam. 7:12, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.” David walked before the Lord, “In truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward God.” David was loyal to God and God was loyal to David. We have to assume there was significant parental instruction and teaching to Solomon and yet Solomon confessed he needed God’s help because he was, “a little child, I do not know how to go out or come in.” This literally refers to his lack of leadership skill. Even though he is young and inexperienced, he is chosen to lead God’s people. Solomon is in the same position that was held by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and his father David. So Solomon asks for an understanding heart – this literally means a listening or obedient heart. In the Hebrew language, hearing and obeying come from the same word. The idea is that if you heard something, you would obey it. This all comes from Solomon’s desire to judge God’s people effectively. This is only possible when the king knows the difference between good and evil. God responds in 1 Ki. 3:10-13. Solomon asked for wisdom – that’s biblical. Ja. 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Not only does God give Solomon wisdom exceeding that of any other man, God gives him riches and honor. But there is a caveat – a conditional clause in v. 14. Too often we want God’s promise without doing what God requires.

Are you asking yourself, was Solomon really that wise? Matt. 12:42 says, “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

1 Ki. 4:29-34 says, “Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” We will look at many of those proverbs in this study. Solomon will offer wisdom for everyday life. Will we be willing to listen and obey?

A Sinful Trifecta

CreepYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude gave us more proof that God is a God of His word. We saw the sin of Israel when they were released from bondage in Egypt, the sin of the angels, and those of Sodom and Gomorrah as Jude completed his trifecta of examples. The three examples of judgment serve as a reminder for us. We saw from v. 4 that the creepers turned the grace of God into license. This morning Jude talks about three specific sins of the creepers that will be judged by God.

Jude 8 says, “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.”

So what’s the connection? Jude is not haphazard in his writing. He connects this verse with the previous by the phrase, “In the same way.” That phrase connects the Israelites in the wilderness, the angels that left their domain, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember Jude is arguing that God will judge sin and the creepers are no different than the people in history. Jude is not saying the sin of the creepers is the same as the three examples: he is using an analogy. Jude goes on to say, “These men, also by dreaming.” Before we look at the three sins, we need to understand this phrase. Dreams play an important part in God’s plan. We saw the importance of dreams from Jacob and his 12 sons that included Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret dreams. Joel 2:28 says, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Acts 2:17 quotes the passage from Joel. In Matt 1:20, we see an angel of the Lord coming to Joseph the carpenter in a dream regarding the pregnancy of Mary.

Dreams are a part of Scripture, but like all good things, Satan provides a counterfeit to truth. If you can, I encourage you to read Deut. 13:1-5 and Jer. 23:25-32. Both passages provide some insight into biblical dreams. Just because someone may say I had a dream doesn’t mean that dream is from the Lord. Just like anyone who says, the Lord is leading me to_______ doesn’t make it true. We need to line it up with Scripture. “By dreaming,” Jude says. In other words, they make up things in their imagination. Their way of thinking; their doctrine is purely imaginary. So these men by dreaming do three things. Let’s find out what Jude says specifically.

Jude lists three sins of the creepers. First they, “defile the flesh.” Defile means to desecrate or profane. In the Old Testament, defile typically indicates sexual type sin. This certainly fits with what Jude said about the angels that left their own domain. It fits with what he said happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. The phrase is also found in early Christian writings describing sexual sin. The creepers pollute their own flesh. In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul said, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Our bodies are supposed to be holy.

Second they, “reject authority.” We need to keep it in context here and not go all crazy saying things that are not accurate. This phrase can only mean one thing – numerous applications, but it can’t mean more than it means. It would be easy to say this means human authority – the government, church leadership, parents, teachers, etc. The word translated authority never has that meaning in Scripture so it would be wrong to say that’s what it means. If that were to be accurate, authority would be plural, but here it’s singular. Most likely is that Jude means the authority of Jesus Christ especially given that v. 4 tells us the creepers, “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The creepers reject or dismiss the authority of Christ. Of course, this isn’t new and we still see it today. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I know what the Bible says, but,” they are dismissing the authority of Christ.

Finally they, “revile angelic majesties.” Of the three, this phrase is the most difficult to understand. We know revile comes from the same word where get blaspheme. Angelic refers to angels and majesties mean glories. So are these angels good angels or bad angels? Messengers of God or are they demons? I can emphatically say . . . I’m not sure. I have poured over the text and cross references and I am just not sure. So what do we do with this phrase? Let’s see what we do know for sure. These creepers are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they are like the angels that left their appointed place of authority, and they are like the grumblers that left Egypt. They are disobedient, rebellious, and doctrinally flawed. They are sinners that have not accepted the gift of God through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. They were marked out for judgment because they reject the authority of Jesus Christ.        If that weren’t bad enough, they are in the church and no one noticed.

Perhaps this will clear up when we look at v. 9 next week. The message for us is clear. We need to know the Scriptures so that we can recognize when people teach things that are not consistent with the Bible. If they do it out of ignorance, we can help correct it. But if they intentionally teach things that are not consistent, we need to deal with that in a different way. Always in love, but not compromising on the truth.

More Proof

ProofYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude reminded his readers that they need to remember the disobedience of the generation of Israelites that were delivered out of Egypt. Even after the miracles God performed, He subsequently destroyed them because they did not believe. That was Jude’s first example of God’s judgment; now let’s check out the second and third examples in Jude’s exemplarific trifecta.

Jude 6-7 says, “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

We saw Jude’s first example last week, now let’s check out his second example of God’s judgment. We covered this same event when we were in Peter’s second letter, but Jude attacks it from a different angle. Interest in angels has grown over the years. From movies like Angels in the Outfield and Heaven Can Wait to TV shows like Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven. We have the city of Los Angeles which is Spanish for the angels and is home to the baseball team called the Angels. We have girls named Angel, Angela, Angelia, Angelica, Angelina, and Angeline. We have angel tattoos and Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels. The stereotypical angel has rosy cheeks, is somewhat plump, wears a white flowing robe, carries a harp, has white feathered wings, and of course the real identifier is the golden halo. Angels are hugely popular, but Jude talks about some angels that did something they should not have done. Jude presents a parallel verse to the one we looked at in 2 Pet. 2:4 and says there are, “angels that did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode.” These angels were supposed to keep their own domain, but did not. They were supposed to stay in their proper abode, but did not. Remember Jude is explaining and reminding his readers by way of example why God’s judgment will occur to the creepers because they, “Were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” Jude and Peter came to the same conclusion about Gen. 6:1-4.  Let’s review what happened in Genesis. Here’s the condensed version. Sons of God refer to angels and daughters of men refer to women. These angels looked at the daughters of men and saw that they were beautiful. Beautiful literally means good. Sound familiar? It’s the same word used to describe how Eve felt about the fruit of the tree that led her to take it. So these angelic beings took humans as their wives and engaged in activity reserved for husband and wife. They crossed over the boundaries established by God. Just prior to this event in Genesis, we see a new character introduced by the name of Noah. So if you keep reading, you have the flood account; a story of worldwide judgment.

Back in Jude 6, the word “domain” is used. It means a sphere of influence or authority. The angels Jude refers to did not stay within the authority or sphere of influence God established for them. The angels, “abandoned their proper abode.” They left where they were supposed to be as ordered by God. As a result of their disobedience God, “kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” There’s more here than meets the eye. Don’t think of these angels as sitting in a dungeon somewhere waiting until the judgment comes. God created these angels to enjoy His presence. These angels were able to freely move about in the shining light of God’s presence. Now they are in darkness. While they have been judged for leaving their domain and abandoning their proper abode, this is not the final judgment. They have been stripped of the power and authority they once had. Are you ready for Jude’s third example? Many people have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah. Peter talked about the preservation of Lot who lived in Sodom. But Peter’s focus was on Lot’s salvation and not necessarily the judgment for Sodom’s sin although we did see that. Let’s quickly review. We saw from 2 Peter that these cities were reduced to ashes because of the ungodliness of the people living there. The details are found in Genesis 18-19. While this is a story of salvation for Lot, it is a tragic story of wickedness, ungodliness, and death for the rest. Gen. 13:13 tells us that the, “Men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.” If you go back to Genesis, you’ll see Abraham bargaining with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of the righteous. First for 50 righteous men, then 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. It is important to mention that Abraham was Lot’s uncle. For all the ungodliness and sin that was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah, God still made a way to deliver people committed to Him. Abraham prayed the city would be spared for the sake of 10 righteous and yet the city was destroyed. There weren’t 10 righteous people there.

Jude gives us a detail not included in Peter’s second letter. Look at v. 7. The clause, “just as” links the activities of the angels and the activities of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice that the cities around Sodom and Gomorrah were engaging in the same activities that brought destruction upon them. Deut. 29:23 tells us those cities were Admah and Zeboiim. They, “indulged in gross immorality.” Sexual sin was rampant but was not their only issue. Ez. 16:49 tells us that Sodom was arrogant and had abundant food, yet they showed no concern for the poor or needy. Jewish historian Josephus criticized Sodom for its pride and hatred of foreigners. Not only did they indulge themselves in gross immorality, Jude says they, “went after strange flesh.” This refers to the same sin that dominated Sodom. So why does Jude talk about Sodom and Gomorrah? Peter wanted his readers to know that God will always deliver His children. Jude wanted his readers to know that sin will always be judged. He concluded Sodom and Gomorrah are, “An example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” The people of those cities stood in opposition to the things that are right and godly and holy and pure and moral. Because of their behavior, judgment occurs. They behave in a certain way because they have no relationship with Christ. Not only do Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a historic example, they also serve as a prophecy of what will occur on that day. Jude is not saying that the creepers engaged in the exact same sin as that of Sodom, but we’ll see in coming verses that they did engage in activities reserved for husband and wife within the confines of marriage. Jude’s point is that sin will be judged. Just because the evidence of judgment may not be apparent to our eyes, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care. We’ve seen from John’s first letter that we should not choose to sin.

We’ve heard Jesus say that the proof our relationship with Him is in obedience to His commands. Jude is providing concrete examples where God does exactly as He says He will do. He judged sin then and He will judge sin today.

Israel’s Rebellion

RememberYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that certain people crept into the church – the creepers. Jude gave us three reasons why their judgment was right and just and told us the judgment for sin was determined long ago. They were ungodly, used grace as license, and denied Jesus Christ. Jude now provides three examples – remember he likes trifectas – of past judgment to his readers.

Jude 5 says, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.”

Here’s Jude’s preface. The first phrase of v. 5 is a transition. His examples serve as a review of what they know. In Ec. 1:9 Solomon that said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  It’s always good to review what we know and Jude is no different. He set up this letter by telling his readers what’s going on in the church because they failed to recognize it. People got into the church and were teaching things that were not consistent with the Bible. They taught things that were not consistent with the traditions of the apostles, were not consistent with what the people knew to be correct, and still no one in the church noticed these things. He starts off by saying, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all.” Did you catch that phrase? Jude said his readers, “Know all things once for all,”  This makes a connection with, “The faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude reminded them of the gospel message they already knew because it was preached to them and they made a decision to follow Christ. He’s not saying they know everything. In contrast to the creepers, Jude’s readers knew the Gospel and the creepers did not because they were turning the Gospel into something it was not. On one hand, his readers knew what they were talking about. On the other hand, just because they do know the truth doesn’t mean reminders aren’t helpful. It’s good to be reminded of the power of the Gospel. It is that power that affects change within us in such a transformative way that only God could get the credit. Jude reminded them because his readers, like us, are sometimes susceptible to forgetting the truth.

Remember Egypt! Jude gives his readers the first example of God’s judgment. This was an event of such significance that it was likely talked about around dinner tables like we talk about Pearl Harbor, or the Challenger disaster, or 9/11. What began as an incredible miracle of God turned into a judgment from God for many Israelites. Jude reminds them, “The Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Why was Israel in Egypt? Let’s set Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine to around 1898 B.C. to find out why. Here’s the Cliff Note version. Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. Isaac was one of them and he had twin sons named Jacob and Esau. Jacob was one of Israel’s patriarchs because first born Esau sold his birth right for a pot of stew. Jacob and his mother Rebekah subsequently tricked Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of the first born Esau. Jacob has a dream in which a ladder is set atop earth reaching to heaven and God tells him, I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:13-14) True to the dream, Jacob has 12 sons and the last of them he names Joseph. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Gen. 37:3 tells us that, “Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons.” Gen. 37:4 says Joseph’s brothers, “hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.”  It didn’t help that Jacob made Joseph a, “varicolored tunic” or what we call a coat of many colors. Adding to the hatred of the brothers was the fact that Joseph had two dreams in which he was placed in authority over his brothers. The brothers conspire to kill Joseph, but his brother Reuben steps in and says, “Let us not take his life. Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness.” (Gen. 37:21-22) Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later, but some Midianite traders were passing by and the brothers decide to sell Joseph for 20 shekels of silver and Gen. 37:28 tells us, “Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.” Exodus tells us a slave is worth 30 shekels of silver and Joseph was sold for less. It gives you the sense of just how poorly they thought of Joseph. By my calculations, that’s a price of about $152 in today’s money. The conspiracy deepens as the brothers take Joseph’s stylish coat, kill a goat, and dip the coat in the blood and show it to their father Jacob who concludes that Joseph was, “torn to bits” by a wild beast. (Gen. 37:33) So Joseph arrives in Egypt courtesy of his brothers and the Midianite traders and is then sold to one of Pharaoh’s officers that was captain of the bodyguard and the Bible tells us the Lord was with Joseph. (Gen. 37:36) Joseph became overseer of Potiphar’s house and managed it well right up until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and Joseph literally ran out of his coat leaving it in her hands. She accuses Joseph of rape; he’s thrown in jail where he rises to a position where he’s in charge of the other prisoners such that the chief jailer didn’t even supervise him. (Gen. 39:23) Joseph has the opportunity to interpret a dream for Pharaoh in which there would be seven years of abundance and seven years of famine. Joseph develops a plan to store up grain for seven years and then distribute that food during the famine. Because of his great planning skills and dream interpretation, at the age of 30, he’s elevated to a position just below Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. As the famine spreads throughout the world, Egypt had plenty of food so people were flocking there to get grain that they were allowed to buy with cash, goats, horse, livestock, and whatever people could find to sell – even selling their lives as they willingly entered servitude to Pharaoh. So who shows up in Egypt but Joseph’s eleven brothers seeking food. After some back and forth exchanges with his brothers, the family is reunited. Joseph gets the last word to his brothers when he says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20)

In order to get back to Jude, we need to look at Ex. 1:5-14. If you continue studying Exodus, you’ll see Moses raised up to go against Pharaoh in order to let God’s people go. Israel flees Egypt and is led to the Promised Land in Israel where milk and honey flow. God leads them by a pillar of clouds by day and fire by night. All the while, the people are complaining against Moses and Aaron saying they’d rather be in Egypt as slaves than be in the wilderness.

Now Jude brings it home. The Israelites saw the miracles of God with their own eyes and still rebelled. These weren’t your typical the sun’ll come up tomorrow things. These were incredible and numerous miracles. From the plagues that hammered Pharaoh, to the Red Sea, to the manna from heaven, to the quail to the Israelites clothes not wearing out on their journey. Jude reminds them that God’s judgment came from their disobedience. Of the twelve spies that were sent into the Promised Land, only two came back saying let’s go! With God on our side, we can take them! “The Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Believe is the verb form of faith. Jude conveys the principle that a faith that is not in action, a faith that is not moving is dead. Our faith is not passive. There cannot be a profession of faith without a life of obedience. The disobedience of the people demonstrated their unbelief. That is why God judged them.

Jude’s point, like Peter, is that continued faithfulness is the primary way to demonstrate that we are children of God. Perseverance is one of the distinguishing marks of an authentic believer according to 2 Pet. 1:6. Christian belief – faith – means action. That’s why Jude is reminding the people. When we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The Donkey Said What?

DonkeyYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week it went from bad to worse as Peter told us that these false teachers had eyes full of adultery that evaluated every woman they saw as a potential participant in their ungodly ways. They turned their backs on the right way and followed after the greed loving Balaam. This morning, a rebuke comes from the unlikeliest of places. This should have been included in last week’s message, but there wasn’t enough time.

2 Pet. 2:16-17 says, “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.”

A funny thing happened on the way to Israel. Peter picks up the story of Balaam from Numbers 22 as he was making his way to meet Balak to discuss this cursing of God’s people. Please remember that Balaam is not a true prophet of God. He’s in it for the money. He’s in it to maintain his soft, cushy lifestyle. So Balaam is on his way to meet up with Balak under the pretense of godliness, but is really driven by greed. “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Pet. 2:16) Balaam is supposed to be a prophet of God, but doesn’t recognize the Angel of the Lord standing in front of him. You’ve got to go back and read Num. 22:21-35 to get the full picture. Balaam is arguing with a donkey. If the donkey didn’t see the Angel of the Lord, v. 33 says that He would have killed Balaam and let the donkey live. Balaam admitted to sinning against God after he was told.

Even though Balaam appears godly, the contrast from v. 35 tells us the real story: “But you shall speak only the word which I tell you.” It gives the indication that he had his own agenda. Balaam listened because the donkey spoke with the voice of the man. We would call this a miracle – a sign that so many people look for. The rebuke from the donkey was because Balaam was going to meet with Balak. The donkey, “restrained the madness of the prophet.” The donkey had to get involved. It’s pretty bad when someone that calls himself a prophet of God doesn’t know the way of God and doesn’t recognize God when He’s standing in front of him. Balaam was not literally crazy. Peter is saying that any way that is contrary to the right way, the straightway, the pure way, the holy way, the Jesus way is utter madness. If the donkey didn’t get involved, Balaam would have been killed right there instead of dying while fighting against Israel. Unrighteousness always leads to judgment.

Peter has talked about the character of the false teachers. They intentionally lead Christians astray. They malign the way of the truth. They indulge the flesh. They’re daring and self willed. They’re not scared when they revile angelic majesties. They’re unreasoning animals. They lure or entice unstable souls. They revile where they have no knowledge. He has clearly established the character of the false teachers is less than what is expected of a vibrant relationship with Christ. Peter now illustrates the affect they have on other people. It’s always nice to illustrate what you mean so Peter compares things that would be understood by his readers. He says the false teachers are like, “Springs without water.” When you go to a spring, you expect water. Think about traveling in the Middle East. There is a lot of wilderness and rugged terrain and it’s hot. A spring would be a welcome opportunity to rest and recharge. A spring without water is useless. This is a comparison to the deception of the false teachers. Teachers of God’s Word should provide clarity, should provide water for thirsty souls, but in the end people expecting help were left parched, frustrated, and confused. There is a parallel from Jeremiah: For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  (Jer. 2:13) They promised solid Bible teaching, but their teaching led people away from the straight way. Pro. 13:14, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.” The false teachers are, “Mists driven by a storm.” Again, thinking of Israel as that dry and parched land in desperate need of rain, the mists that could bring relief are blown away. The results of both comparisons are the same. When you need to satisfy a deep thirst, you need water. It’s like giving someone an empty glass to quench their thirst.

These false teachers did not deliver what they promised. They promised no judgment, but God always judges sin. The wages of sin is death. “Black darkness has been reserved” for the false teachers. Once again, Peter hammers coming judgment for these people. Don’t be seduced into thinking that what we do doesn’t matter.