Category: plagues

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 3

Sermon

Pentecost 12A

Series: Freed to Follow Week 3

Exodus 12:1-14
The Passover



We really jump ahead from that moment of God’s Call to Moses on the mountain way over on the Sinai Peninsular to being back in Egypt at the end of a long and difficult battle between God’s freedom and Pharaoh’s continued bondage.

As we go come to our Word for today, we bump into all this business about God’s judgement on Egypt. All this talk of plagues and God’s judgement seems pretty foreign to our experience of faith. God is described and seen acting as the Warrior God. This is not what we are used to. Maybe a bit of background can help us into the Word today.

God has picked a fight with Pharaoh and the goal is worship; rest and blessing in his presence. The reason Moses is to give Pharaoh for “letting my people go” is so that they can worship the Lord. God is forming a worshipping community. He is freeing a community of people with whom he can meet and teach and bless and through which he will bless and teach all humanity.

The fight with Pharaoh is going to take some extreme measures and the victory will need to be complete, lest God just becomes a mere god of many gods in the pantheon of ancient worship. So, what about how the battle is fought….?

The order of the 10 signs, and the various animals and material God uses all have their significance…….

As we said last week, in the pantheon of hundreds of gods, Amon Ra, the sun god, is chief and his son is the Pharaoh. Pharaoh actually is the son of god. Pharaoh has to fulfil his role to ensure that his father, Ra, (the sun) rises daily from the darkness of night (underworld). If Pharaoh does his job, then the seasons happen, the Nile River floods annually and crops grow – all is well. If Pharaoh is defeated or falls asleep on the job, then all returns to chaos and darkness.

You can see why Pharaoh really cannot allow belief in any other god – especially one who claims to trump Amon Ra, like Moses is suggesting.

In 9 signs, the Lord defeats the gods of the underworld (blood of the Nile, frogs, flies), the earth (mosquitoes/gnats, cattle plague and dust into boils)and then the sky (hail, locusts, darkness across the land). Then God strikes the killer blow by wiping out the first born male generation of human beings and animals in Egypt.

The Lord’s victory is almost complete. There will still be one final blow that will wipe out Pharaoh and his army completely too. That is for next week….

This is warrior stuff and hard for us to deal with. God the mighty Lord is a warrior who fights on behalf of his people. He knows the depths of human evil and the power of evil in his creation and he acts in merciless fashion to free his people from hard service to these things.

His goal however is good service in his presence. His goal is the eventual blessing of all nations and the welcoming of all nations into his gracious presence in worship. He has to make this fledgling slave community into a nation of blessing before he can bless the whole world through them as he promised.

We pause in the story to receive detailed instructions about the foundational event through which God freed his people and the special meal that is to be enacted annually for all time – the Passover.

Our text is the detailed instruction how to order the seasons (the year) and remember this act of freedom God gave to his people the night he saved them from continued hard labour and service to the gods of Egypt.

The details say that this saving event and this holy meal come from God and his authority and power alone. This meal is all about God’s authority and power from beginning to end. It is about complete dependence on God and his saving love.

This moment is to define everything in life after it. God re-orders the year. He makes a first month of the year; the month of Nisan (no, not a car!) or “Abid”. It is in early spring time in the northern hemisphere – very fitting. This is a new year, a new life, a new hope and way of living. It is around March/April – based on the lunar cycle (full moon).

This special meal is to be enacted by all people in all families. It is to be taught to the children over and over again, so important and foundational it is.

We hear a little later on……(Exodus 12:26-27)

When your children ask you what you mean by this observance, just tell them that we are remembering the night when Yahweh passed over all the Israelite houses. That’s when we became God’s liberated people.

It is a holy meal that deserves only the very best. Some time has to be spent selecting a year old lamb or kid. The animal sacrificed for the meal must be without any defects or spots or “blemish”: Only the best for a holy God of freedom. He demands our best – our first fruits not our second best. He is holy and invites us to share in his holiness and love. Only our best offering will be what is required in our relationship with the Lord.

Nothing at all is to be wasted. If there is not enough people in your own house to finish the whole lamb, then you need to invite the friends and family over. This is a holy meal that cannot be left for other purposes.

This holy event done solely by a holy God (no human power involved) which has a specially chosen animal to be sacrificed could so easily be abused if any of the holy sacrificed animal was left over. Human beings have an idol factory in their soul and God’s people are so prone to serve idols of their own making with anything that looks or sounds holy. No, nothing is to be left. The people can only serve one God – the Lord, I AM.

This meal must be eaten on the run – literally. God is on the move during this meal. He is at work and his work is done for a people that are on the move – or soon will be – after this meal. The meal is for the run. The meal is strength for the journey. It is not a meal for being only settled and comfortable or to bask in too much. It is meal for life and change, and activity and the journey in which God’s people travel with him.

The blood of the Lamb is the centre of the meal, along with the bread that does not have yeast in it. There is no time to bake bread that rises. Again, this is a meal on the move.

The blood is to be used for something special – It is to be painted on the door frames of the house, as a sign of something. The blood is sign first to the people. God is freeing you through this meal. He is freeing you from more hard labour to other gods and idols. He is saving you from the darkness that surrounds human idolatry and sin. Through the blood of the Lamb he is winning this victory over chaos and evil “for you”.

Yes, those words, “for you” resound in our ears when we share a meal. “Given and shed for you” we hear……

The blood of the lamb is also a sign to God; a sign post to him to “Passover” and not exercise his judgement of sin on this family. It is a sign post to God to let this family live when it really deserves God’s judgement of death.

Can any of us really know what amazing gifts the Lord gives us in this simple meal we share if we don’t hear about this Passover meal? The depth of God’s power and grace shine as we hold this Passover night with “the night Jesus was betrayed…”.

Passover and Lord’s Supper

It was at a Passover celebration that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This meal too means liberation for all who partake, freedom from sin, freedom from the world, and freedom from all demonic powers.

As the Lord’s own Supper, it is open to all the Lord invites, all the baptized, who remember that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. The blood of the host at this banquet means that God will pass over the sins of all who partake in repentance and faith.

This meal says something. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. The infinite One meets us in the finite elements: bread and wine.

At the Old Testament Passover, the narrator said: When your children ask you what you mean by this observance, just tell them that we are remembering the night when Yahweh passed over all the Israelite houses (Exodus 12:26-27). That’s when we became God’s liberated people. And so at our Christian Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, we tell each other, especially our children, just why we celebrate this little banquet so frequently. It is not blood on our doorposts, but the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Jesus that says “You are free!” It’s so real you can taste it.

All the baptized are welcome here — every age, every class, every gender, every race, sinners included. In fact, sinners — long-time member sinners or new to the faith sinners — are invited to be first in line.

Our Eucharist (or “Meal of Thanksgiving”) catches us on the fly, between Saturday and Monday. Our meal in Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, is a meal on the move. It is strength for the journey of faith and love. It is to be lived out, not hogged and kept for personal comfort only. It’s a communal meal for us all and those who don’t know the Lord yet.

Our stay at the table is short term. It is not once a year anymore but all the time now. Jesus has kind of sped things up and the Spirit quickens us regularly for our spiritual service to the Lord as we bear witness to his gifts of grace and love.

Our stay is short but often, and we are soon on our way back into our daily life where we live out our freedom, for others.

Praise the Lord for his passing over of our idolatry and hard hearts and his giving of life and freedom in their place – all in the body and blood of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb – the host of this holy meal and the meal itself – all God, from beginning to end.

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 3

BETWEEN THE TEXTS


Week 3



• We jump forward quite a lot this week moving from Exodus 3 to 12. A lot happens in between our selected reading!

• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world.



Chapter 5: Moses finally responds to God’s call (chapter 3), teams up with Aaron and gets to Egypt where he finally meets Pharaoh. It does not go well! It looks like this great mission has failed before getting off the ground as Pharaoh, with a very hard heart against Moses and Aaron’s God (Yahweh), hardens up the hard labour of the slave class masses. Moses’ people, as a direct result of his demand to Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go out into the desert to “serve” their God in a festival, demands that the slave labour force now are to make bricks without the usual supply of straw. They have to gather their own straw from wherever they can find it.


• When the slave leaders protest, Pharaoh makes things even tougher. They have to make their same quota of bricks without any straw at all! You can see why the people are not exactly diving in to believe in Moses of follow him!


• But, God has the plan. This is God the Commander-in Chief and mighty warrior getting ready to annihilate other gods in a show of complete dominance and power. Chapter 7:1-6 shows the plan in a nutshell.


• Then we get to the “signs and wonders”, a few of which are in the form a “plagues” of various things. Here’s how it works…


The gods of Egypt:



o Three levels of gods in a pantheon of 100’s of gods.


o Chief god, Amon Ra – Sun God.


o The sun makes light and its rising and setting brings order to creation


o The sun god takes an ordered journey everyday. The sun sinks into the underworld (night time) every day and there is a constant battle between Ra and Sem, the chief god of the underworld. Ra gains the vistory every day and rises again everyday.


o Pharaoh is Ra’s incarnate son on earth who has to perform various rituals daily to assist his “father” Ra in this ongoing battle to keep chaos and evil at bay, so that prosperity and life continue…


o Because Egypt lives on the waters of the Nile and did not know where this great water came from (No one did until the 19th century!), it was believed to come from the underworld. The Nile is a flooding river. Every year it floods and provided excellent flood plain conditions for crops. The underworld from where the water comes must be continually held back/defeated so that the floods come and life goes on.


o Animals are symbols of these deities at work

• The signs the God performs are set in this belief system. His defeat must be total and completely outside this system of belief, lest he just be seen as one of the many gods!



Pharaoh is a god. He sees himself that way and his people see him this way. He must be destroyed for sake of God’s people and God’s plan to use this holy nation he has created to bring HIS blessing and life to all nations (including Egypt!)


Chapter 5:1-12:36 is the contest between the Lord and Pharaoh


SIGNS 1-3: Defeat of the powers of the underworld: Blood of the Nile, Frogs, Flies – all powers of the underworld in Egyptian thinking. The first two signs are copied by the sorcerers of Egypt but the third (the flies) acknowledged as being by the hand of Israel’s God. (8:16-19). Interesting that frogs were regarded in the pantheon of gods as being the gods of protecting women in childbirth – remember what Pharaoh did to Moses’ generation? Also interesting – this first defeat shows God’s power over magic, occult and dark spirits.


SIGNS 4-6: Defeat of the powers of the earth: Mosquitoes/gnats, cattle plague and dust into boils for all living creatures (yuk!). Interesting that the plague of flies shows the first separation between what happens to Egyptians and Hebrews. (read 8:20-24)


SIGNS 7-9: Defeat of the powers of the sky: Hail, Locusts Darkness across the land (no light – think about Amon Ra and Pharaoh and their place/roles….). In the plague of Hail, Pharaoh actually seeks forgiveness (9:27-25) and ask Moses to intercede for him to the Lord. Pharaoh does this again in the plague of locusts (the great threat of all ancient – and modern- food producers!). But he continues to “harden his heart”….


THE KNOCKOUT BLOW: The death of all the firstborn of Egypt (11:1-12:36). Life in Egypt is cut off and disrupted. Amon Ra and his son have failed. They have been defeated by a greater God. Pharaoh fulfils God’s promise to let the Israelite go – with plenty of plunder (silver and gold and livestock etc….) and even ask Moses to bless him. Moses refuses to bless Pharaoh. The nation that is about to be freed and trained how to fulfil their vocation of being blessing carriers of blessing to all nations has no place for any other God and any other life than that lived in Yahweh’s blessing and life.

WEEK 3 Exodus 12:1-14 (TNIV)



The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.


11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.


12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.


14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.





THOUGHTS



1. This is Israel’ great moment of salvation. It is THE event that shapes this new community of God and will do for all generations of faith.


2. You will notice our text is not the actual event. That is described after our text in 12:29-39. There is much to say about this event – before and after it! You can tell that it is a big deal by the amount of instruction, detail and time it takes to tell it how it is to be told – not just once, but in every generation of Hebrew people (up until now!).


3. The Month is the month of Nisan (no, not a car!) or “Abid”. It is in early spring time in the northern hemisphere – very fitting. It is around arch April – based on the lunar cycle (full moon).


4. It is our Easter time because the first Christian made the link between The resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son and his salvation and this event of Passover. Jesus established the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Passover. He was crucified during the festival of the Passover. He proclaimed himself to be “the true Passover lamb that was slaughtered for the life of the world…”


5. It is a holy meal in which nothing is to be wasted and nothing is to be done by one’s own authority. It is all God’s authority and power from beginning to end. It is about complete dependence on God and his saving love.


6. Only the best will do for this God of all power and love. He demands our best – our first fruits not our second best. He is holy and invites us to share in his holiness and love. Only our best offering will be what is required in our relationship with the Lord.


7. Blood is life in ancient thinking. No one has the authority to take another person’s blood/life – only the Lord and he does this for the freedom and love of his people as he defeats all evil. The links with Jesus and his teaching and life are endless. His blood is the once-for-all sacrifice for all sin of all time. He shed his blood on our behalf thereby freeing us from the wrath of God against all sin, chaos (disorder) and darkness. His blood protects as it did on the doorframes of their houses. His blood is that which we drink and it is healing, forgiveness and life for us from God. Jesus revolutionises this ancient meal that has held a nation together through thick and thin for thousands of years by making himself not only the priest of this meal but the actual meal – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!





REFLECTIONS



The Lord’s Supper is our Passover – not once a year but all the time. Do you think you regard the Lord’s Supper in this way?


• There is no room for gods when it comes to living in the Lord’s grace and power. A “idol” is anything we cling to for our well-being other than the Lord. Idols can be anything. See how receiving Jesus’ body and blood in simple repentance and faith in HIS blood and the life he gives, smashes our idols and cleanses our hearts and makes us holy before the Lord?


• Have you ever made these kinds of links with Easter? See how Easter is a deeply significant and timeless gift of the Lord for a world in need; so much more than a long weekend! So much worth entering into to receive the Lord’s blessing for our life and celebrating who we are as his saved and free people…..