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….?
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)
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…”.
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.