By Simon ManchesterSunday 25 May 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
The Lamb Will Pay – Exodus 11-13
You will know by now from the rest of the service that we are following the Book of Exodus. This is the 5th of 12 and today we come to the famous Passover where the people of God enslaved in Egypt put the lamb’s blood on the doors and God you know passed through Egypt,that was dreadful and deadly,but he passed over his people,and that was rescuing and wonderful.
It’s a very famous event and it’s a word that is well known ‘Passover’ but I was interested to read that Steven Spielberg,a well known Jewish Theologian got the point wrong in his film which he was a Producer of – The Prince of Egypt – because he said along with the others that they would be happy to have a mark on the door and his religious advisers pointed out to him that it was not just a mark on the door,it’s not as though God needed a mark so that he would know where his people were – no,there was to be lamb’s blood on the door so that the people of Israel would get a lesson in why they were being spared.
Why were they being spared? Because there was a death,there was a death that would save them. There was a lamb’s death that would save them. That’s what the people were being taught. We are going to be spared but a lamb will not be spared. And when God saw that they had grasped the point and taken the lamb and applied the blood,he passed over their house and they were able to escape not only from Egypt of course but from God’s judgment.
Now as we come to the subject and before we just chose our three points to help us grasp the issue,I want to remind you that it’s possible to make some mistakes in studying the Passover.
One of course is to imagine that the Israelites were a bunch of really nice people,innocent,almost perfect,struggling and deserving to be delivered and rescued from Egypt. But they were not an innocent people,they were a sinful people,the Israelites,and the lamb shedding blood for them is the proof that they needed to be rescued,delivered,and spared from God’s judgment. We will come back to that.
But another mistake we can make very easily is to look back to that old story of the Israelites in Egypt and sort of have a quaint pity for them so we think,well,boy that was a long time ago wasn’t it and there’s this famous story of the Israelites stuck in Egypt and there they are and they chained and they are fenced in and they can’t do anything but we of course,we’re smart and we’re sane and we are sophisticated and we’re completely free – nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus said the most serious slavery in the world is to be one who sins and he said if you sin you are enslaved to sin. You at stuck to it. You are guilty because of it. You are doomed because of it. And there is a slavery which is much more serious than physical and outward and that is inward and eternal slavery.
To give you a quick example of it – I was reading a book by Don Carson of a man who was an academic in Texas,a Professor in Ethics and he was an atheist,he became a Christian and looking back on his conversion he says this:
“Everything goes wrong without God. This is true even of the good things he has given us such as our minds. One of the good things I’ve been given is a stronger than average mind. I don’t make the observation to boast,human beings are given diverse gifts to serve him in diverse ways. The problem is that a strong mind that refuses the call to serve God has its own way of going wrong. When some people flee from God,they rob and kill. When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex”.
“When I fled from God,I didn’t do any of these things. My way of fleeing was to get stupid. Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to achieve”
He goes on to say “you cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself because Paul said the knowledge of God’s law is written on our hearts,our consciences bearing witness. So visualise me opening up the access panels of my mind and pulling out all the components that have God’s image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God’s image stamped on them so the man can never stop. No matter how many he pulls out,there are still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more,there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about,I thought I was becoming more and more focused. I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn’t believe – I was becoming a fool”.
There’s a slavery. So we mustn’t study the Book of Exodus and think of it as just a history lesson but we must study it as a personal lesson. There is something which is more serious than slavery in Egypt and that’s slavery to sin and there is something that’s more wonderful than rescue from Egypt and that’s forgiveness from sin.
Every Tuesday morning I get a phone call (as I think I’ve told you) from a prisoner in Goulburn Jail called Bronson Blessington and he’s in a cell about 6 paces x 2 paces and it is the most uplifting,wonderful 6 minute phone call that you could possibly receive because he’s utterly free in his prison. He is inwardly,delightfully and stupendously free. And for 6 minutes he encourages,ministers,blesses and helps me from his prison cell.
So let’s just think about this subject this morning in a humble way under three headings. Firstly – The Lamb Explained – then we are going to think about – The Lamb Remembered – and then we are going to think about – The Lamb Fulfilled.
The Lamb Explained. We’ve been following Moses being called by God and sent to Pharaoh. Pharaoh not letting the Israelites go and so as we have already heard this morning 9 disasters fell on the country of Egypt and they were to teach the Egyptians that they should not mess with God. And now the 10th disaster or plague is coming and if you look at chapter 11 verse 4,this is how Moses explains it.
Moses said “This is what the Lord says: About midnight I,the Lord,will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die from the firstborn son of Pharaoh,who sits on the throne,to the firstborn son of the slave girl who is at her hand mill,and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt — worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me,bowing down before me and saying,’Go,you and all the people who follow you’. After that I will leave”. Then Moses,hot with anger,left Pharaoh.
This final plague is going to really force Pharaoh’s hand and it’s going to be so big that it will actually re-structure the calendar of Israel. If you look at chapter 12 verse 2,you discover that from now on the first month of the year is going to be the month in which they remember the Passover. The whole calendar will be re-structured around this event.
Now we want to ask the question – why is God going to strike down the firstborn? And the answer is the firstborn in Scripture means the heir,the inheritor,the one who will cause the future to take place. And Pharaoh has been defying God by imprisoning God’s firstborn,God’s people,the Israelites. And so in a stupid way,Pharaoh has been preventing God’s plans for his people.
And that’s why we read in chapter 4 the Lord says “Israel is my firstborn son; I told you let my son go,but you refused – I will kill your firstborn son”.
Now this is God not being childish and vengeful although he is able to avenge,what God is doing here is he is teaching the world that his plans revolve around his people and although all the Egyptians deserve to die because they’ve all been caught up in idolatry and they’ve all turn their back on God and they’ve all been part of this dreadful process,what God will do is that he will take the firstborn. Now everybody in Egypt and everybody in Israel and everybody in the whole world will see that if you turn your back on God your future is hopeless but if you turn to God and put your trust in him,you have a future.
You will notice that this 10th plague which has to do with death strikes at the heart of the Egyptian idolatry again because nobody was more obsessed with death than the Egyptians. We know from their pyramids and their mummies that they were obsessed with solving the problem of death and they believe their gods had the answers. But their gods did not have the answers. Their gods were helpless and hopeless and useless. The only one who could solve the problem of life and death is Yahweh. Or as we come to the New Testament,Jesus said “I hold the keys” or as Jesus says in John 11 “I am the Resurrection,he who believes in me will live forever”.
So the only way for the Israelites to escape the judgment of God,as we know,was to take the lamb or even a little goat and 4 days later it was to be killed,the blood was to be put on the doorframes,then they would eat the meat and they would leave nothing over,which I presume was to kill off any temptations to be idolatrous towards the meat or superstitious towards the meat.
And the point,the 64,000 issue is the lamb would be a substitute for the firstborn. The oldest son in every Israelite home will not die. And the people of God who are his firstborn will be pushed out of Egypt.
Now do you notice that every single house in Egypt is going to have a death in it? But in the Egyptian houses,death will be a son and in the Israelite houses,the death will be a lamb. In the Israelite houses,every oldest boy will turn round to the next morning and say “I am alive because the lamb died” and all the people of Israel will say “We are set free now to leave Egypt and go to the Promised Land because the lamb died”.
Some of you know that I am technologically slow and I still work with pens and pieces of paper and notepads and that sort of thing and on the back of all my notepads,on the back of all notepads,I think,is a stiff piece of cardboard. On that piece of cardboard for years and years now I have scribbled down random thoughts,clever quotes which I want to keep or ideas that I get and sometimes I pass these good ideas from notepad to notepad waiting for them to take shape. But one little quote I’ve been writing on my notepad for a number of months,maybe even a year now is a little 4-word quite that goes like this: GRACE RESTS ON ATONEMENT.
I read it in a Commentary. For some reason it really struck me and I thought to myself ‘I must get this into my head’. Grace rests on atonement. What I mean by that is we talk a lot about grace. God is gracious. He extends his grace to us. We are saved by grace. We live by grace. We live under his grace but it all has to be paid for.
Someone pays for that. It comes because of atonement. It comes because Jesus took the opposite. He took the death so we get the life. He took the separation so we get the fellowship. He took the losses so we get the pluses. Grace rests on atonement.
What the Israelites were learning as they killed the lamb – put the blood on the door – is all the blessings of God are going to come to us because this blood was shed,this atonement took place.
Now the second thing,quickly this morning is The Lamb Remembered. God said he would come through the land of Egypt and he was strike down the firstborn and he did and this sword of justice came down and there was this tremendous wailing that went up from the Egyptians,dreadful,dreadful crying.
I remember Simon Flinders preached on this passage a number of Christmas’s ago and he point out that there was loud wailing where God was rejected but where God was heeded it was a silent night!. The people slept peacefully,experienced the protection and the provision of God.
That was the original evening – the original Passover – never to be repeated. Taking the lamb,putting the blood on the door was never to be repeated. It was a one-off rescue. But every year after that,first month of the year,there was to be an annual Passover to remember the rescue – not to repeat the rescue but to remember the rescue.
And they were to use bread made without yeast and that would be a permanent memorial to them of the night where they had bread without yeast because they were hurrying to get out and this bread without yeast in the Passover Annual Feast would be very distinctive and very memorable. This Annual Passover Feast would have a reminder to them – we had to quickly get out – it was a serious evening and interestingly when you get to the New Testament the Apostle Paul has a comment to make on the yeast:
“The yeast” he says “is a symbol of sin”. He has a little quote in 1 Corinthians 5 which goes like this: “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed – get rid of the yeast of sin”.
So the Israelites in Egypt had made their bread by getting rid of the yeast or not using the yeast and now says Jesus “You,Christians,who have benefitted from the death of the Lord Jesus,our Passover Lamb,get rid of sin” – get rid of the stuff which infects you and inflames you and wrecks you.
That’s why I want to remind you again this morning that although Israel was in Egypt,Israel was in Egypt because God told them to go to Egypt back in the days of Joseph – they were not innocence in Egypt – they were not innocence deserving a rescue. Scripture tells us in Ezekiel chapter 20 verse 4 that Israel was very attached to the idols of Egypt and although God commanded them to get rid of the idols,they would not forsake them. God delivered them not because they were pure or innocent,holy or even repentant,but he delivered them because of his Name and because of his Promises and through the lamb.
And this annual Passover would be a reminder to them not only that they had been delivered but they had been needy and guilty and God had wonderfully and mercifully delivered them.
The third thing this morning – The Lamb Fulfilled. We’ve looked at The Lamb Explained. We’ve looked at The Lamb Remembered and now The Lamb Fulfilled.
If you look at chapter 12 verse 41,you’ll see that God’s people left Egypt. Pharaoh basically pushed them out and as they left Egypt it had been 430 years since they had been there.
There was going to be a Passover (verse 43) the annual Passover and if you look at chapter 13 verse 1 there was also going to be a regular consecrating or dedicating of the firstborn son.
So all these Israelites walked out of Egypt and every year they would remember this Passover but also every time they had a boy,first boy of the family,they would dedicate the first boy of the family to God. Why would they dedicate the first boy to God? Because they would remember that their firstborn had been spared in Egypt and the firstborn of the Egyptians had not been spared and they would give thanks to God for rescue. So Feast,Dedication – a double reminder.
But nothing really impacts us like shooting forward along the time-line to the Last Supper. We’ve all heard of the Last Supper where Jesus is sitting with his disciples and what they are doing at the Last Supper is that they are celebrating the Passover. It’s the night of the Passover.
And we read in Mark chapter 14 “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples asked him,where do you want us to go and prepare the room for the Feast?” And they prepared the room and there they were sitting around the table experiencing the Passover meal. And as they ate the Passover meal (and I want to remind you this Passover meal had now been operating for 1500 years roughly) and as they are sitting around experiencing the Passover meal,Jesus does something absolutely astonishing – absolutely unbelievable.
He just simply changes the words.
Now the Lord’s Supper,the Communion which we are going to share in for a few minutes this morning,has been operating for 2000 years. Can you imagine Simon Flinders getting up and deciding this morning that he is just going to change everything? And not only is it going to all be changed but he’s going to focus it all on himself – unbelievable.
That’s what Jesus does here at this Passover (or for him the Lord’s Supper). He knows that the Passover is a memorial to escaping Egypt. He knows that it is a signpost to himself. He knows that he is the final lamb and instead of picking up the Passover bread and saying the familiar words of the Passover,he says to them “THIS IS MY BODY,THIS IS MY BLOOD” – Unbelievable.
God had said to the Israelites you are to do this every year,it’s to be an everlasting ordinance and Jesus comes in and says ‘I’m changing it’. It’s about me. Jesus is saying at the Last Supper – I want you to remember my death. There was a lamb who died in Egypt,yes,that was a shadow. My death is the reality. That lamb that died in Egypt got the Israelites out of Egypt. My death will get you out of sin and separation and hell itself. Your freedom,says Jesus,is going to rest on my atonement.
And so when Jesus said to them at the table ‘take the bread and take the cup’ he said something extremely significant – and stay with me because I’m in the last couple of minutes. I’m in the last couple of hours!!
Did you notice that back in Egypt,the 9 plagues fell on Egypt,not on Israel? God made a distinction. But when it came to the 10th plague,the death of the firstborn,there was a conditional distinction. It was going to fall on everybody unless the Israelites took the lamb and put the blood on the door.
And you see,everything would hang for the Israelites on whether they began to be takers. Would they take God at his word? – that’s the question. Would they take the lamb that he told them to? Would they take the blood to the door? Would they be takers? – that’s the question.
Israel did not escape judgment because they were living better than the Egyptians. Israel did not escape judgment because they were working harder or because they knew more about God or because they were more pious or because they went to church. Israel escaped judgment because they took the lamb.
And when Jesus said “take the bread and take the wine” that of course is the keyword for salvation because Christianity means that you must take the bread and the wine as a reminder that you have already taken Christ as your Saviour.
Well,let’s forget about the bread and the wine. The key to salvation,the key to Christianity,the key to eternal life,the key to going to heaven is that you take Christ. How do you do that? John says “to as many as received him he gave them the right to become Children of God”. That means there has to come a point where you lift up your voice to God and you say to him ‘if you are the Saviour of the World,Jesus Christ,I want to take you to be my Saviour,I want to take you to be my Lord.’ ‘I want to receive you – I don’t have anything to give you except my sin – I want to take you’.
And here as we meet this morning and we take bread and we take wine,it’s to remind ourselves that we are simple receivers. We are not better than anyone in the street. I hope nobody here this morning thinks they are better than anyone in the street. We are not saved by our lifestyle. We are not saved by our church going. Communion is not remembering that we are worthy – please don’t imagine that you can take Communion on the Sunday that you are worthy. Communion is remembering that we are unworthy but he is able to save the unworthy.
And that’s why when we take Communion,we either kneel or we sit humbly,we bow our head,we hold out an empty hand,we take the bread; we take the wine because it is a reminder that we have taken Christ,the Lamb of God.
Now as you head off this morning and you may look back as you drive home on the Passover sermon,I want you to remember a few quick things –
Firstly,be amazed by Jesus. Who but God come down to earth would change the Passover service? No prophet,no Moses,no David,it’s only Jesus. And we live in a society don’t we that it’s got such an appallingly hopeless views of Jesus.
One of the writers of the Herald I saw recently said he did not need an invisible friend. Well I can only assume that he does not understand a fraction of how great Jesus is. The foolish idea that Jesus to prove himself to a sports writer would have to come,the God of the universe,and stand in front of him when he has already come into the world and change the world,is unbelievable,and it seems to me the people who have the worst view of Jesus are the people who most steadfastly turn their back on the evidence but when you turn and face the news of the Lord Jesus,you realise he’s an absolute colossus. Be amazed by him.
Secondly,take hold of his mercy. I hope the background music of your Christian life is that ‘Jesus loves you’. I hope the background of your Christian life is not ‘I’m doing my best and I hope he loves me’. What a tortuous tune that is. I hope it isn’t “I’ve had a good week and therefore he loves me. I’ve had a bad week and therefore he doesn’t love me”. What a dreadful tune that is. No,the tune of the real Christian life is “He did die,he did die for me,and I am free. I have good days,I have bad days,I am free” – the mercy of God.
And friends,if you are talking to your children,whatever you do,don’t keep telling your children that ‘they must love Jesus’. We are no good at that. That’s just a law. If you keep on telling your children ‘you’ve got to love Jesus’,well in the end they will just despair. No,tell your children ‘He loves you,believe it and rejoice’. He loves you. That’s the good news.
And the last thing,this morning,is when you see people in your street,in your neighbourhood,in your block of units,in the shops,practise seeing them as God does because he does not see them in terms of clothes and smiles and money and pleasure. He sees them in two categories. They are either Christless or they are Christ’s.
If they have no Christ,they have no eternal life,therefore they have no hope,and therefore they are doomed. If they have Christ,they have life,they have hope and they are destined. And one of the things I am trying to do is to see people properly as God does and be concerned for people who are Christless and rejoice to see people Christ’s. I hope you feel the same because it all goes back you see to simply taking Christ,the Lamb of God.
Let’s bow our heads and pray –
Our loving Heavenly Father,we this morning want to thank you for sending the Lord Jesus to live and die and rise for people like us who are not worthy and for bringing us the good news of his life,death and resurrection so that we might take hold of him and be rescued forever.
We pray that you would fill us with the joy of the gospel. We pray that you would fill us with the peace of the gospel and we pray that you would also fill us with the words and the love of the gospel so that many others might know that you are great and gracious.
And we ask it in Jesus Name – Amen.