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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Does God really mean what He says?

Scripture reading for today is found in 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Who is God? (Fold hands pretend to be blessing food) "God is good; God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen" Is this the only time we even mention God? church or briefly before we eat?  We preach God's kindness, mercy, compassion over and over again, but is that all that God is? Have we forgotten the other aspects of God’s character? Is it important to know what God’s will is? Does God expect us to follow a specific set of guidelines in our daily life? Or is it enough just to LOVE each other?
     We will be using our Bibles a lot today so I hope that you each have one. Let us begin our journey today by going back to the beginning. Does God really mean what He says? Genesis chapter 2:16, 17 and then chapter 3:1-5, 23, 24. (Have an apple and set it on the pulpit) Genesis 2:16, 17“And the Lord God commanded the man, “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” chapter 3:1-5 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He sad to the woman, ‘Did God REALLY say, you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’.” It’s such a little thing, this piece of fruit. But what was it that the snake said? Did God really say not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Did He mean what He said? Genesis 3:23, 24 “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” It was just one measly little bite of fruit and yet God came down and banished Adam and Eve from there Eden home and here we still are more than 6000 years later. Did God really mean “Don’t eat from the tree?”
     So the question remains, does God mean what He says? Let’s take a look at another story. This one begins in Numbers chapter 20 verses 1-12 "In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, 'If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!' Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell face down, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, 'take the staff and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.' So Moses took the staff from the Lord's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” This hardly seems fair Moses put up with these people for all those years, his sister had just died, the people had done nothing but complain against Moses since he had first brought them out of Egypt and with one little slip up Moses doesn’t get to go into the promised land?! Just because Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it! He had done everything the Lord had asked of him, even going before the Pharaoh of Egypt and yet this one “little” thing kept him from the Promised Land. Turn to Deuteronomy chapter 3:21-28 " AT that time I commanded Joshua: 'You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.’ At that time I pleaded with the Lord: ‘O Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan--that fine hill country and Lebanon.’ But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. ‘That is enough,’ the Lord said. ‘Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are NOT going to cross the Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” Moses was pleading with God to please, please, pretty please let him enter the Promised Land and God told him to stop speaking to Him about it. Have you ever seen a kid begging for a new toy or a piece of candy? Especially if they have already been told no once? How hard is it to look at their pitiful little faces and not give in? Okay just one piece! So God allows Moses a glimpse into the Promised Land. But a glimpse is all Moses gets.
     Let's take a look at another "little" law. Turn to the book of Numbers chapter 3:10 "Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; ANYONE else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death."
and again in chapter 18:1-4 "The Lord said to Aaron, 'You, your sons and your father's family are to bear the responsibility for the offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood. Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the Tent of the Testimony. They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the Tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, or both they and you will die." So the rule is, only the Levites can touch any furnishings in the temple or the altar or they will die. Fast forward to the time of King David in 2 Samuel chapter 6:1-7 "David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.” King David is bringing the Ark--a temple furnishing-- back to Jerusalem. Uzzah thinks that the ark of God is unsteady and reaches out to steady it. There was no malice here. He simply that that God needed his help to protect the ark from tipping over. Instantly he died! Does God mean what He says?
     Just to make sure let’s take a look at one more. I’ll set the stage by reading a few texts. Exodus 35:5 "From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver, and bronze;" turn back a few pages to Exodus 25:1,2 "The Lord said to Moses, 'Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man who prompts him to give.'" Leviticus 22:31-32 "Keep my commandments and follow them. I am the Lord. Do not profane my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the Lord who makes you holy." Gifts given to God were supposed to be given from the heart. No doubt our next examples had read the Torah and were familiar with God's laws. Acts chapter 4:32-chapter 5:11 "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of Encouragement); sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’ When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what happened. Then young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’ Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” Just one little lie and two people died, instantly!
     We could go on and on there was the flood in which only eight people were saved. I’m sure we could find others but I think that you get the point. So how important is it for us to know what God requires of us? I’d like to shift gears a little bit and look at Revelation chapter 4 John is speaking here and he says, “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it and the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircling the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second like an ox, the third had the face like a man; the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, out Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being‘.” This is a picture of the very throne of God. So is there any other times in the Bible when we have seen this before? Let’s find out--Ezekiel 1:4-28 "I looked, and saw a windstorm coming out of the north--an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal. and in the fire was what look like four living creatures. In appearance there form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings. and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. There faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left side the face of an ox; also each had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of the creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the Spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. T he appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures, it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: they sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about, and all four rims were full of eyes all around. When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and all the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. Spread above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved I heard the sound of their wings, like a roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still they lowered their wings. Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking." I wanted to read to you the whole text because of the one little inconsistency that I found and that if you were listening was that in one vision there are six wings and in the other there were only four. I bring this up because somebody else probably would anyway. I cannot speak as to why except to say that, like witnesses of an accident, sometimes descriptions don’t necessarily match. This does not detract from two main points: 1. the entire Bible is God’s holy word and 2. These scenes are basically the same thing. Note especially verse 26 the term “throne of sapphire” The point of this exercise is that both John and Ezekiel are getting messages from the very throne of God. So now we can go back to Exodus chapter 24:1, 9-11 “Then He(God) said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance‘.” verse 9 “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and Saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.. Can we come to the conclusion that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders saw God on His throne? This is only mentioned in these three texts in the Bible, so I venture that if God thought that a message was so important that He would come down from heaven with his throne that the message he was delivering was one of utmost importance. So what message is God giving to Moses and the Israelites at this time? Continuing in verse 12 “The Lord said to Moses, come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.” It is on this mountain at this time that God gives His commandments to Israel, that He wrote with his own hand in stone. How important God’s laws must be that He would come down on His throne to give them! How important it must be to have God’s laws as our standard! Exodus 20:1-17 “And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the Land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord you God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet you neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Does God mean what He says? Is it important to know and to do what God wants us to do? I’d like to close with these texts: Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. ANYONE who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Galatians 3:24 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.“ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” Notice that not one sin is above or below another in the list all are offensive to God. continuing in verse 11 ”And that is what some of you were. But you were washed(speaking of being baptized), you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” and lastly 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 “All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
     Now our God is a loving God, and He is patient and kind and not wanting that anyone should perish. Every good parent has rules, and all good rules have consequences. No child respects a parent whose rules are not enforced. When you say to your child don't color on the walls and he/she continues to do so, there should be consequences. Rules such as don't flush your sister's doll's heads down the toilet should come with very strict consequences! I don't remember how many times I had to rescue my sisters many dolls from the evil clutches of my brother! God has rules too. He says, "If you love me keep my commandments." John 14:15 Time and time again the Israelites were sent into captivity until they could remember to keep God's commandments. God has always made a way for people to be saved. In Noah's day it was an ark. Only eight people got on the boat in Noah's day. I want to be on the "boat". The road is narrow and the path is not easy, for it is not well traveled. But Jesus traveled the road ahead of us so that we too could be where He is. Don't you want to be one who follows God's will all the way?















2 Peter 3:9

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