September 14, 2008, Monaca First Presbyterian Church

Not the best Sermon I have ever written. Sounds a bit discombobulated. May God bless my incoherence.

First Monaca Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) September 14, 2008

Scripture Lesson Exodus 14: 19-31

Sermon “Baptized Unto Moses” Benjamin P. Glaser

Moses in the verses preceding our Scripture Lesson this morning has been negotiating with Pharaoh over the release of the Israelites from the hand of bondage in Egypt. They have gone through all ten of the plagues, the rivers have turned to blood, the frogs have come and gone, the outbreak of gnats and flies has ceased, the livestock of Egypt have died, boils have appeared, hail has rained down from heaven, locusts have eaten their food, darkness has come and gone, and finally the firstborn of all of Egypt and those who had not sacrificed the Paschal Lamb and placed its blood on the door frame have had their first born die at the hands of the Angel of the Lord. Only after all this has Pharaoh released the Israelites from their bondage and allowed Moses to lead them out. However Pharaoh in chapter 14 has reconsidered through the hardening of his heart by God so that, as verse four says, “Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” It is at this point where we come to what we have read this morning, that is the crossing of the Red Sea and the fullness of what we can learn from the events of that day and what came after it.

But before we get to that it is important when we come to texts like this that seem too far-fetched or too much like myth to believe in our supposed more enlightened times that we appreciate what kind of God it is that we are given the delight to worship. We cannot treat these events as having no real meaning for us in the 21st century living in America reading them as we would Aesop’s Fables or the stories of the Brother’s Grimm. As if they are some type of legend only meant to teach some kind of moral lesson. We must comprehend that the Holy Scripture’s speak as one unified voice displaying for us the Almighty majesty of the God whom we have the pleasure of coming to worship this Lord’s Day. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter ten says,” For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were [punished] in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. “ In other words these events have a very important thing to teach us, because as the chosen people of God passed through the Red Sea many moons ago we too who have been chosen in Christ and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, pass through the cloud as Paul says to be on our way to the Promised Land. But just as the Israelites who were saved by God from the attacking Egyptians, they were also punished for their refusal to submit to God’s Will and God’s Law given to them by Moses at Sinai.

The people in the Exodus event all perform actions that occur not for any other reason but for the Glory of our Almighty God alone who is the sovereign and the supreme ruler over all of His creation. Nothing happens but for the Glory of God and only according to the purposes of God. We would think that the Israelites having seen this work, this parting of the seas that had been done through Moses, would have followed to the letter what Moses tells them to do. However we know it takes but a few days after witnessing the awesome power of Almighty God for the Israelites to fall away and construct an idol of their own making, bowing down to worship an inanimate object that has no power, no glory, no holiness because they had already forgotten the salvation God had provided for them in their rescue from the hand of the Egyptians. Refusing to submit to the Grace God had provided for them in the Law given to Moses. Of course it easy for us today to look back at the Israelites with disdain and contempt, but how we follow the same pattern. Falling for the wiles and the snares this world provides for us, trusting not in the power of our Almighty God who has rescued us from our own sin, instead trusting in the weak, powerless, and falsity that is the world.

This fight we have with God is as old as humankind itself. This fight is this old because we refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord our God. Why do we do this? Why do we who know that our omnipotent God, powerful enough to free His people from bondage, to part seas, destroy the most powerful Army on earth, Our God whom alone we can cleave, to save us from ourselves, why do we continue to deny him in this way? We are reminded of the words of David in Psalm 18:27 “The humble O Lord, thou wilt save; and the eyes of the proud wilt thou cast down:” We must be humble before God. We must recognize our fallen nature, our inability to save ourselves. That is what we do when we ask forgiveness for our sins. We recognize that we have fallen short of the Glory of God and that we need his help in reaching that Glory because we cannot do it. Romans 3:9-18 says, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit”; the poison of bees is under their lips”; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” We are utterly incapable of coming to God, He must come for us. As He has sent Moses to bring the Israelites from Egypt so to He has sent Christ to bring us to Him. Submitting ourselves to His Law as the Israelites are called to submit to Moses and the Law God has given him.

We must not look at submission as a burden but must look at it as the exact opposite. Submission is the glorious reality that we do not have to rely on ourselves for our own salvation. For I know if I had to rely on my own will to get me to the promised land I might go backwards let alone go forward towards the Promised Land. So we must look at this call to submit to the will and Law of God not as a yoke that we have been made to bear but that the yoke has been lifted from us so that we may be with Christ in Paradise. You see Christ died so that we do not have to. So that death could lose its sting and we could have victory over our foe. It was so that fallen humanity which cannot even come close to reaching the perfection that God requires of us could be with our Father in Paradise. There is a glorious reality in understanding that God has shown us any mercy at all. We who dishonor him at every step and deny his calling have been given this magnificent gift that is Jesus Christ so that we may have a right relationship with our creator. We shall not deny His will should we? We cannot allow the Devil to deceive us to believe that we can be the author of our own salvation or that we can of our own power perfectly follow this will. The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter Eighteen puts it this way: “I. Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which that hope of theirs shall perish: yet those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

It is God’s will that we submit to Him, that we stop resisting His will, that we allow Him to have complete control of our lives. Submission requires humility because it requires that we acknowledge that God is more capable of directing our lives than we are ourselves, and it also requires that we acknowledge that God has a greater right to direct our lives than we do. God is in opposition to our foolish pride. He demands our complete submission to His Word and to His Word alone. This is what the first commandment is all about. We shall have no other Gods before him. Humanity cannot serve both God and Mammon. We must only serve Him that created us not just because that is what God commands in Scripture but also because we are incapable as fallen humans to perfectly follow the Will of God in and of our own ability. The devil tries to get us to resist God’s Will by telling us that we can know better than God, that is what the words to Eve in the Garden were all about and that we have a right to do as we choose with our own lives, the sin of the time of the Judges chapter 17 verse 6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The fact is all sin is rebellion against God’s will and submission is part of true repentance towards God. We resist the devil by submitting to God, and submitting to God is the same as drawing near to God; therefore, when we submit to God the devil flees from us because he does not want to be near God. When we humble ourselves before God by submitting to His will, we acknowledge that His rights and abilities are greater than our own, and He rewards us by exalting us. God may exalt us in differing ways. He may deliver us from temptation, trial, suffering, or whatever difficulty we are experiencing, or He may strengthen us to bear up under our circumstances. Furthermore, He always exalts us by strengthening us in our faith. The Almighty Father has called us to completely deny ourselves and to follow him. However we should not look upon this as a burden but as glorious freedom. We are as babes in arms leaving ourselves to completely trust in our safety, our feeding, and our protection entirely on the Almighty. Submission is not a burden it is a release from the weight of sin. Let it go. Let God take your anxiety. Let God take your worry. Do not fear this World for if God is for us who can be against us?

As we come to the end of our morning service here on the Lord’s Day and as we begin to prepare to go out from this place into a world that has denied Christ crucified, a world that wants nothing to do with the free offer of Grace given by Jesus Christ, with the Law that he has given to us, we remember Christ’s words in Matthew chapter 5 starting at verse 13 going to verse 20 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Brothers and Sisters know that just as we who are sinners in need of a savior from our bondage to sin as the Israelites were in need of saving from their oppression in Egypt we have been brought forth from that bondage, passed through the Red Sea which is our baptism in Christ, being cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb, having the weight of the Law taken off our back so that we can now submit to the Law of God out of Love and worship to the Lord our God who has died for us on a cross so that we may partake in His Righteousness and that our righteousness may surpass that of the Pharisees who though they followed the Law could not do so with perfection, but those of us who are in Christ Jesus we have been brought forth from the Wilderness of Sin to the Promised Land that is Jesus Christ. All those in Christ will be like the Israelites who are in Moses, and they will pass safely to the other side as the Israelites did. However all those who are not in Christ will be like the Egyptians, and will be swallowed up in the furious wrath of God in the torment of the sea.

To God Alone Be the Glory of This Day and Forevermore. Amen.

The Impiety of the 5-Day Work Week and Exodus 20:9

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

I have written and posted much on the 4th Commandment on this bog and have done some extensive reading on its application and misapplication in modern contexts. However in all my reading I do not know if I just plain old missed it in the 4th Commandment or just read over it since the Sabbath rest was my “proof point” but today during my Sabbath reading I have been reading John Murray’s Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics and in chapter IV entitled “The Ordinance of Labour” Murray begins to speak of the difference made between the context of Labor in Adam’s time before and after the Fall.  Before the Fall labor was not cursed but a blessed thing man did and it came with no adversity or distress. However after the Fall Labor became a hardship and was done now by the sweat of the brow and the thorns and brush would cause pain for the man (Gen 3::17-19) as punished for Adam’s sin. From dust he came and to dust he would return.

What does this have to do with the 4th Commandment?

Well Murray moves from this point to show in the history of Israel the establishment of the institution of Labor and its force has brought forth a class of people that are not only hard workers but have become proficient in what they do. He gives the example of Noah’s building the ark to prove this point. How could Noah have built such a large structure if he did not have the time or the know how to do so? This for Murray:

…places proper perspective more than one of the precepts of the Decalogue. If we think, for example, of the fourth commandment, it should not be forgotten that it is the commandment of labor as well as rest. ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all of thy work’ (Ex. 20:9). If we will, we may call this an incidental feature of the commandment. But it is an integral part of it. The day of rest has no meaning except as rest from labor; and only as the day of rest upon the completion of six days labor can the weekly sabbath be understood.

John Murray means here that the stress upon labor here in Exodus 20:9 is not on labor in and of itself but upon a certain consistency of labor. It says man shall work for 6 days then rest, not 5 and take two off. Now one may say here that the 6th day is for labor around the home etc. and that is certainly permissible given the text and the impetus of the command. However one thing that is not allowable given this construct is taking two-days off and not working at all on the 6th day treating it as more of a Sabbath than the actual Sabbath day which is often the case today. God has blessed us with a day off as rest from labor which he has commanded us to perform for 6 days of the week not 7 or 5 but 6. The fourth, like its sister the 2nd, has taken a seat in the way back of the Christian car in the last 100 years. Being pushed to the rear in favor of worldly employments and various sporting endeavors the Christian Sabbath and the 6-day work week that Scripture commands for us.

The Mosaic Covenant; Works, Grace, or Both?

In this third post on the Covenant of Works I want to begin looking at the different “administrations” of the Covenant. We have already looked at the Adamic Covenant and I want to for right now skip Noah and go on to Moses (we’ll come back to Noah later). There has been some debate as to how we should look at the Covenant given to Moses at Sinai within Reformed circles so this post is more a of an intramural debate then a proof text either way for how we should look at the Mosaic Covenant since Covenant Theology imparticular is a Reformed thing nearly explicitly. So with this in mind I want to post a few Scripture texts that will be our main focus in this post. Firstly God has already made a little “c” covenant with Moses way back in chapters 3 and 4 in the Book of Exodus. God through the burning bush told Moses that he would free his people from bondage in Egypt and bring them first to Sinai to worship Him then on to the Promised Land they will go. So here in the beginning of Exodus we have God promising to Moses deliverance from Egypt for the people of God from bondage to freedom. Now we ask at this point what has Israel done to deserve deliverance? Some say we must be careful how we read into the text the “glory story” but here in Chapter 3 we see the type of the salvation that we are to receive. In other words those of us in the Covenant of Grace have been saved from bondage to sin (cf: Rom 8:15, 21) just as the Israelites were saved from bondage in Egypt, through no work of their own but by being the chosen people of God (Ezek 36:28, John 6:65). Back to Exodus 24 we go for now.

Exodus 24 is chock full of all kinds of scrumptious morsels for us to chew on but we must limit ourselves to the question at hand. However I exhort you to take a look at verses 4 and 16 especially in depth at another time. This chapter begins with Moses, along with Aaron and his sons Nadab and Abihu (who are to feature prominently in the book of Leviticus) being called to go up to the LORD and then Moses is to worship and then go back and recount these things to the people. This he does. In verse 3 Moses goes to the people and in verses 3 and 7, “Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!'”, “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’.” This sounds like the Covenant of Works we all know and love. God presents to Moses the Law and the “ordinances” and the people say with one voice “I Will”. The people have promised to obey and live by God’s Law. Now what is their motivation for doing so? What shall they gain by following the words of God? Well here in Exodus 24 the people, moving off Moses promise that they shall receive the promised land, believe that by following the Law to its completeness they will be given entrance to Canaan, the land of their ancestors. We know from the rest of the story that Israel fails and are punished by not being allowed to enter the promised land, they are punished for their failure to live up to the Covenant. So as we can see in this short and somewhat stilted look at the Mosaic Covenant there are elements of both the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace in this particular Covenant.

I could go on for days just in this chapter but this being a blog it does not lend itself to long drawn out explanations so we will stop here for right now and pick this up later.

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 8 (Cont.)

Continuing the post below looking at Hezekiah’s reforms as a good analogy for today’s problems with the 2nd Commandment we see that Hezekiah does not hesitate to return Judah to proper worship of God. While we unfortunately in my view neither have the ability to in a manner of speaking direct the worship of an entire nation as Hezekiah did nor do we have the right to go around smashing idols like our Orange brethren at Utrecht we do have the duty to make sure our Evangelical brothers and sisters know how they are defaming the Word of God by trying to picture him in any way (including injection-mold, heat transfer, or screen printing ChipB). And especially since most representations do not do proper justice to the ethnic origins of Jesus of Nazareth let alone his majesty and holiness. So we must ask ourselves at this point having shown that images of the Godhead do not do justice to the plain reading of the 2nd Commandment  and cannot be tolerated in any Orthodox manner or setting how do we go about directing the proper worship of Christ so that it is compatible in this regard to the 2nd Commandment? Do we have “Idolatry Awareness Month” or “2nd Commandment Sunday”? Do we write polemics and browbeat?

Well what say you?

The Second Commandment and Images of the GodHead, Part 1

Here is my much promised series of posts on Images and the Godhead that has been promised for some time.

Introduction

I want to begin by forcing our eyes upon the truth that there is a not-so-latent Anti-Nomianism running around in most circles today in both Liberal and Evangelical worlds. The difference being that either side argues around various parts of God’s Law so as to establish a defense against the enforcement of the part of God’s Law that they would like to see abrogated. I could spend time now describing where this is true but that would an entirely different post. For the purpose of this post I just want to put us in the mind that the idolatry we are going to discuss has in the background the Anti-Nomian milieu of which we belong. This Anti-Nomianism is part passive ignorance and part active disobedience on the behalf of those who practice it. For instance go to your general “Reformed” pastor and talk to him about this issue. I am positive within the first 5 words will be either the word “legalism” or the term “Pharisaical” and this is primarily the problem in todays church in regards to issues of following the Law of God in the Covenant of Grace. Whenever one begins to speak about keeping the Law of God in sight of our call to righteousness (cf: Calvin’s Three-fold use of the Law: to convince of sin, to restrain sin, and to provide guidelines for living the Christian life) we are told by most that any act on the understanding that looking to the judicial law at all on this issue is legalist and part of the work I am going to do on the idolatry of images is to answer this problem through the discussion.

Tomorrow we will look at the Primary Reformers thoughts and conflate them with current practice in “Reformed” churches.

The Rich Young Ruler and The American Church

Cowardice strikes hard at the American Church today. Many are called to lead in great measure and fortitude yet dismiss it in favor of earthly pleasures. I quote here two selections from Charles Spurgeon that illustrate this:

“Only be thou strong and very courageous.”

Joshua 1:7

Our God’s tender love for his servants makes him concerned for the state of their inward feelings. He desires them to be of good courage. Some esteem it a small thing for a believer to be vexed with doubts and fears, but God thinks not so. From this text it is plain that our Master would not have us entangled with fears. He would have us without carefulness, without doubt, without cowardice. Our Master does not think so lightly of our unbelief as we do. When we are desponding we are subject to a grievous malady, not to be trifled with, but to be carried at once to the beloved Physician. Our Lord loveth not to see our countenance sad. It was a law of Ahasuerus that no one should come into the king’s court dressed in mourning: this is not the law of the King of kings, for we may come mourning as we are; but still he would have us put off the spirit of heaviness, and put on the garment of praise, for there is much reason to rejoice. The Christian man ought to be of a courageous spirit, in order that he may glorify the Lord by enduring trials in an heroic manner. If he be fearful and fainthearted, it will dishonour his God. Besides, what a bad example it is. This disease of doubtfulness and discouragement is an epidemic which soon spreads amongst the Lord’s flock. One downcast believer makes twenty souls sad. Moreover, unless your courage is kept up Satan will be too much for you. Let your spirit be joyful in God your Saviour, the joy of the Lord shall be your strength, and no fiend of hell shall make headway against you: but cowardice throws down the banner. Moreover, labour is light to a man of cheerful spirit; and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing in his God, believing with all his heart, has success guaranteed. He who sows in hope shall reap in joy; therefore, dear reader, “be thou strong, and very courageous.”

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”

Exodus 14:13

These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, “Stand still.” It will be well for him if at such times he listens only to his Master’s word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions. Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” But God would have us put on a cheerful courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in his love and faithfulness. Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.” But, however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine fiat has bid thee go from strength to strength, and so thou shalt, and neither death nor hell shall turn thee from thy course. What, if for a while thou art called to stand still, yet this is but to renew thy strength for some greater advance in due time. Precipitancy cries, “do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait, is sheer idleness.” We must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything. Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it and expect a miracle.” But Faith listens neither to Presumption, nor to Despair, nor to Cowardice, nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands. “Stand still;”—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”