Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
WHAT CAUSES A NATION, WHO KNOWS GOD, TO BECOME GREEDY, SELFISH, AND REBELLIOUS?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
19 AUGUST 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Romans 11:11-18, 28-32
1 John 2:16-17
Preparation Verse: Psalm 119:163
I hate and despise falsehood,
But I love Thy law.
The nation of Israel began with the calling forth of Abraham, and from that time forward, God was constantly in their presence, showing Himself to them in many ways and encouraging them to follow His ways and turn away from evil.
But Israel's heart was not wholly directed toward the Lord, for they desired the ways of the world. They chose to be enticed by the immediate pleasures and give up the lasting pleasures.
They gave in to the three basic sins that John spoke about in his first epistle (1 John 2:16).
16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
And the final effect of our choice of the kind of living we desire is answered in the next verse:
17. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
If we want to live with God, we must turn away from the world.
Our nation is going in the direction of Israel; and in microcosm, we can see it in our own towns and villages, and even in our churches and families.
Some of you understand the way of my teaching and others don't.
The desire of my heart is that everyone who hears the sound of my voice would also hear the voice of the Lord and return wholeheartedly to Him, so that we would all abide with Him forever and not pass away with this world.
I don't want anyone to go to hell!
And neither does God!
About 3,500 years ago, God led Israel out of Egypt, a land symbolic of the sins of the world, in the hope of giving them eternal life and rest with Him.
But before He could lead them out of Egypt, he had to perform many signs and wonders to convince both them and the Egyptians that He was serious.
Why does God do this? It is because He loves us.
Turn in your Bibles to Exodus 16, beginning with verse 1, and listen
carefully, for God's word should speak to us of our own failings, like Israel's;
but instead of concentrating on the sad aspects, see the good that God desires
for us all.
1. Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.
They had been out of Egypt only a short time, but they so easily forgot the power and love of the Lord, as we can see from the following verses:
2. And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
3. And the sons of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
Moses and Aaron were only doing what God told them to do. The people knew that in their hearts, but they would rather complain than thank the Lord for what He had done.
If they were serious about dying by the hand of the Lord in Egypt, then why worry about dying in the wilderness?
Their hearts were not set on the things of heaven, but on the lust of the flesh. They would rather sell their souls for food.
God is obviously angry with them, but listen to the way He responds, as we continue with our reading:
4. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.
5. "And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily."
6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, "At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt;
7. and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?"
Observe carefully what is being said. God is responding to their grumblings, not because He feels sorry for them or to satisfy their greed and give in to it, but to test them.
And remember what Moses and Aaron said: It is not them that they are grumbling against, it is the Lord.
If someone grumbles against a religious leader who follows the word of God because they don't like what that leader said or did, they are grumbling against the Lord.
God really does know what is best for us, whether or not we want to accept
And whether or not we like something really has nothing to do with it being Godly. That is, unless we are following God's will for our lives.
God will most assuredly give proof to the grumblers that He is Lord, as we shall see as we continue:
8. And Moses said, "This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord."
9. Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, 'Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.' "
10. And it came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
God knows the true intent of the heart. We can't fool Him.
God is appearing to them to let them know that He knows that they are rebellious, and that they are selfish, caring only for themselves and their own desires, for they wish only to feed their greed.
The people in the Middle East, and in many other places around the world, are acting much like this today, and if we are truly honest, we can see it happening a lot closer.
The Lord is speaking to us as well.
11. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
12. "I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.' "
13. So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.
14. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.
15. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat."
On the surface, as we read this passage of Scripture, it appears that God doesn't mind that the people grumble against Him. In fact, some might even say that they were rewarded for their grumbling; but that is not so.
As we read further, we find that those who didn't believe the Lord or what Moses and Aaron told them of what the Lord desired, and were greedy, had worms grow in their bread.
In a later occasion, when the people grumbled in a similar manner, the Lord gave them quail again, and many choked to death or died of some kind of plague. See Numbers 11:31-35.
Sometimes we don't appreciate what we have, and we grumble because we want something else or something more; and when we do this, we often gain nothing more and even lose what we have.
Part of the worldly ways the people had become accustomed to was the taking of the life of another living being to satisfy their lust of the flesh.
God was trying to show them that they would be healthier and more spiritually connected to His heavenly will, if they ate the bread from heaven, "manna", that he provided for them; a bread that was vegan, a bread that contained no products of death.
Thank and praise God for what we have.
Pray reverently, with thanksgiving, for what we need.
Then we will have what we need, as well as bountiful blessings as a bonus.
Most Israelites rejected these and other gifts of God throughout the ages, and were rejected by Him.
The same is true of most so-called "Christians."
Paul, in his letter to the Romans (11:11-32), expresses how the Lord can still use such rebelliousness for good. But as we read part of this passage, note that we are to be thankful for that good but not misuse it.
11. I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
What happened to Israel is what is happening to most Christian churches.
We must remember that the Israelites are God's chosen people, both yesterday and today.
Many of the individual people fell, and the nation was even up-rooted; but it was also replanted. And remember that it was replanted in our own lifetime.
So, instead of gloating over Israel's or anyone else's past, or even present misfortune, consider what Paul is saying:
12. Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
13. But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
14. if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
Do you remember what we talked about last week?
That Paul was even willing to go to hell, if that were possible, to save his fellow Israelites; and that he did go through a kind of living hell in the process.
But here he is expressing the reality of the situation. We are to learn from those who fall away, so that we would not do the same.
We are not to do what they do.
We are not to follow after them.
We are not to revel in their misfortune either, but simply pray for them, so that they would come to repentance.
We are to set the proper example, even if they do not.
We are to do what is right in the sight of God.
Listen as Paul ties this together in verse 15:
15. For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Israel is still the basis of the promise. Through the promise given by God to Abraham, all repentant believers are received.
But without the promise given to Israel, which includes Jesus Christ, there is no salvation.
Israel fell into the trap of worldly lusts and pride and became greedy, selfish, and rebellious. For that reason, the promise was extended to all others who repent and believe, but the promise was still there for all Israelites who repent.
16. And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too.
But there can also be contamination. Leaven, or yeast, also has the biblical meaning of sin, for a little yeast will make the whole lump grow.
And if something happens to a tree or vine, it is quite common for some of the branches to wither and die.
This is what happened to Israel and the Church, and it is still going on today.
Listen again to Paul:
17. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
18. do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
So, to put it in practical terms for today, it is not Israel we reject, or are arrogant against, it is God's promise to Israel that we are rejecting.
We are rejecting God's word contained in our Bibles, and thus we are rebelling against God.
And when we reject the word of God presented by our Bible teachers and preachers, we are not rejecting them, but God, just as we read about Moses and Aaron.
Such persons will be cut off from God.
Such persons will go to hell.
Let's skip down to verses 28-32:
28. From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;
29. for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
30. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
31. so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
32. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.
God's mercy is shown by His grace – that unmerited favor of forgiveness that He bestows on all who repent and believe.
Listen to what God is telling us.
Tell your loved ones to listen also.
I'm not saying this to waste my breath, and certainly God has not given up on any of us; but we must start living for Him.
If we do, He will supply all our needs and our very lives forever.
If you don't believe me, then believe God.
Don't reject Him.
Stop looking to the world and its greed, selfishness and rebellious nature.
We don't need what it offers.
We need God!