Today we are continuing in the Exodus narrative, which I hope has been a joy and a challenge to you. We will finish that up in two weeks on Christmas Eve. That message will stand on its own, because I know we’ll have guests and family in town, but I do encourage you not to miss Christmas Eve because that is actually our main full service that we’re doing. Christmas morning will be much simpler and shorter. So I hope, if you’re in town, you’ll be here on Christmas Eve.
Today we are looking at the Israelites finally being delivered out of slavery, and also God instituting something called the Passover. Up to this point in the Exodus narrative, we’ve seen nine plagues. In chapter 11, today, we see one more warning, one more clear presentation of what is coming, and of course, one more refusal from Pharaoh to obey God. So, to start, I’d like us to work our way through chapter 11, and then we’ll also talk through and read some of chapter 12. So, starting with me in verse 1 of chapter 11.
11:1-10 | The Warning
1 The Lord said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. (you hear the finality in that statement, right? One more, that’s it. It’s a solemn tone here, honestly, a terrifying tone). Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” 3 And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people. (Now that may seem unusual to hear that, that Moses was considered a great man in the sight of the Egyptians, but God has so amazed and terrified the Egyptians that they had respect and even willingly gave up their possessions to Moses and the Hebrews. It’s truly an amazing thing that God has done. He has brought judgment upon the Egyptians, but has also put them in awe of Himself, and even of Moses, particularly as we get into this 10th and final plague). So, continuing in verse 4:
4 So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. 7 But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ 8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. (side-note: I’m not sure why Moses was so angry here, the text doesn’t tell us, BUT it’s likely just because he’s tired of Pharaoh’s rebellion and refusal to let the people go.) Continuing in verse 9: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.
So this solemn warning, the last warning, brings up yet again something God told Moses all the way back in chapter 4 of Exodus, when God was first calling Moses to go to Egypt. He told Moses in verse 22 of Chapter 4 that Israel was his firstborn son, meaning that this distinction we just read about between Egypt and Israel is a distinction made because God has chosen Israel to have the prominence and importance and love as would a firstborn son. Then in verse 23 of chapter 4, we see God say very clearly that if Pharaoh refused to let God’s firstborn son go, then he would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn. So we see the details of this plague all the way back in the beginning of the Exodus narrative, that God was going to bring this about. And now we’re to his last warning before he does so.
12:1-28 | The Commemoration
Then, what happens in chapter 12 will feel a little out-of-place, but it’s not. In these first 28 verses of chapter 12, which we’re not going to read in its entirely, God is giving instructions on a celebration he is establishing commemorating what he’s about to do.
This detailed explanation about how to observe The Passover meal, and then this Feast of Unleavened Bread, a feast that lasted a week and started right after the Passover meal, this is not just a boring interruption in the story, this section. The point of these two celebrations is to establish an incredibly powerful way of remembering God’s love for the Israelites, and this remembrance will continue basically forever. An important question to answer as we try and understand this is : why?
Why establish a way to commemorate what God’s about to do? Well, we see very clearly one of the reasons is because God wanted a specific way for future generations who weren’t there for the Exodus to participate in a sense. Verse 14 says, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” God told them that they were to take this unblemished lamb, 1 year old, and God was pretty picky on what type of lamb was fit for this, and also in how they were to prepare it, which really points to the purity and even holiness of the lamb. Then, after slaughtering the lamb, they were to put its blood on their doorposts, then eat the lamb, following specific instructions on how to do that. And then, after they Passover meal, they were to go seven days eating only unleavened bread. Why? Well, that was to commemorate the night that they all had to get up and leave Egypt without being able to leaven or cook their bread.
God wanted all subsequent generations of Israelites to remember and even in a way participate in the Exodus and what God did. Verses 26-27 say, “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” So that’s at least part of the why.
Now, there’s something else I really want you to catch here: Before God even delivers his people officially, he’s giving them instructions on how to celebrate and commemorate that God delivered his people. Do you see what’s odd there? He hasn’t yet delivered them. This is a pretty remarkable thing if you think about it. He’s telling them how to commemorate something that he hasn’t yet done. What’s going on here? God wants them to absolutely trust him, wants them to be absolutely sure that God is going to do what he has said all along he’s going to do. He wants them to trust Him so much that they will celebrate for the first time a commemoration of something that hasn’t happened yet, God delivering them out of slavery! They’re still slaves. And this brings us to our first consideration of Passover and the Gospel, which we’ll see four.
- As believers, we can be SO TRUSTing in our great God so as to celebrate what has not yet fully come.
Here’s the only time you will ever hear me approve a name-it, claim-it mentality. I’ve brought this up before, this somewhat common mentality that says, in Christ, we can name it in the Spirit, and claim it, and it’s ours—a house, a car, a child, clothing, money, anything. To that idea, we must ask, “Says who?” God has not promised any of those things. To name and claim those things is little more than pretentious, and pretending like God is bound to our will and what we want.
BUT, here’s the thing: God HAS promised to deliver you from sin! God has declared YOU as one of his own! You can name that and claim that all the day long! Why? Because GOD has declared that! You are not enslaved to sin. You have been set free, even in the midst of still struggling with it. Just like with the Israelites, he tells them, let me show you how to celebrate and remember this thing that I haven’t even done for you yet. It is so absolute, so inevitable, because it’s grounded in God’s love for us and in his integrity as a God who keeps his promises, and NOT in our performances; It’s so absolute and certain that you can “take it to the bank,” if you want to use that expression. Celebrate! Commemorate! Remember what I haven’t even done fully yet!
As believers, we can be SO SURE and TRUSTing in our great God so as to celebrate and commemorate what has not yet fully come. Yes, we’ve been delivered from sin and shame, truly, in Christ, that IS absolutely DONE and FINISHED. BUT we still sin! We still live in a world that is ultimately not our home! But, guess what, we can celebrate and even set our minds, as Paul says, on the things above, knowing what is to come. That we will be fully delivered into the new heavens and the new earth, with glorified bodies and absolutely nothing separating us from Christ. And what is to come is not based on our performances, but on God’s grace and His steadfast love! That brings us to our second consideration of Passover and the Gospel:
- God’s unfailing love is based on his grace, not in anything special about us.
The Israelites had not performed well. There was nothing particularly appealing about them. They were rebellious against God; they’re going to be rebellious again even after God does deliver them as they wander in the wilderness for 40 years. And yet God loves them, and has promised to deliver them. This isn’t just some beautiful random truth. This is the Gospel, is it not? This is the heart of the Gospel.
Your mother always told you that you were special, me too! I’ve got news, though. Sure, from your mom’s perspective, you’re special. But I’ve got news. We’re not all that special. Can we just be real? There are 7 billion people on earth, and we really think there’s anything all that special about us as individuals? I’m not trying to be a downer here. I’m just trying to help us see the magnificent craziness of God’s love. There’s your statement of the day, if you want to write that down. God’s love for us is magnificently cray-cray! There’s nothing special about us that that is the reason God love us. He simply chooses to love us. That shouldn’t discourage us this morning. That should wake us up to the tremendous undeserved love of God for us. It’s tremendous. It’s unfathomable!
Listen, it’s almost impossible it seems, in living in this world and living in our sin even though we’ve believers in Jesus and he has paid for our sin, it’s still so difficult at times to recognize when we’re trying to earn God’s love, like we are as earthly children sometimes: maybe we want to perform well so that our parents love us. At least that’s how we think about it, maybe. And maybe not all of us have struggled with that, but I’m sure some of us have.
Listen: we don’t need to prove to God somehow that we’re special. And it’s not because, “Oh, each and every one of us are so special in eyes.” Look: sure, in a sense, yes. He made each and every one of us, we’re the pinnacle of Creation, he knows the number of hairs on our heads, etc., etc. But that’s not why God loves us. God loves us because he loves us. The reason we follow Christ as Christians is not because it earns us a place in heaven, it doesn’t! But instead because God loves us, and it’s so baffling that he loves us! I hope that FREES you to live for Him more gloriously and passionately. When you struggle with sin, yes, be fearful of God (that’s good, and biblical, and real), but set your mind on Christ and the COST of your sin and the FREEDOM that we bought for you, that’s all the fuel you’ll ever need to fight sin.
God’s goal for the Passover and then these 7 days they were to eat only unleavened bread was not just for this generation, or even all generations following them. And it even goes beyond this new beginning for Israel, and even a new calendar with a new first month (we see in verse 2 that that’s how big of a deal the Exodus was). It even goes beyond always looking back and remembering this amazing thing that God did, which we see so many writers in the Old Testament do—they look back and worship God for what he did in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and out of slavery.
What, then, is at least one of God’s goals with the Passover and the Exodus? What goal goes beyond all that? Providing a very clear and graphic reminder that life had to be lost on their behalf. This brings us to our 3rd consideration of P. and the G.
- Without life being lost there is no salvation from God’s wrath.
They were to take a lamb without blemish, kill it, then Verse 7- “Then they shall take some of the blood (of this lamb that they were to kill and eat) and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.” They’re putting blood on the doorposts and on the part of the door above the doorposts. That was the only way for God to pass over their homes and not bring death to their firstborn. That’s what the Passover was. But why so graphic and why, honestly, this terrible plague at all? Verse 12- “for I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.”
Here’s why: God wanted to communicate the incredible offense that it was to rebel against Him, the terrifying judgment that came as a result, and also the absolute necessity of justice, of blood, of life being lost on the Israelites’ behalf.
No matter how good their intentions were or how busy maybe they had become with everything going on: blood had to be shed. The Exodus was the greatest act of deliverance in the entire Old Testament, and it foreshadows and points so strongly and obviously to the far GREATER act of deliverance, when Christ, the only perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed on our behalf. The lamb had to be without blemish, much like Christ was without blemish. And the blood of this lamb satisfied God’s wrath for the Israelites, and his judgment fell on the lamb instead of upon their heads. In the same way the Lamb of God’s blood, his death, satisfies God’s wrath and his justice. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation 5, when John sees God holding a scroll that no one could open, and that scroll represents most broadly God’s purposes for history, for everything. But John saw that no one could open the scroll because it had these seven seals. Then it says in verse 6-10:
“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Christ is the Lamb of God, the only one to unlock and make sense of all of history. The only one ultimately to pay for the sins of the entire world by his blood, and the only one who came back from the dead defeating death and sin altogether. As you can see, the Exodus is not just about the Exodus. It’s about the Gospel. It is the Gospel. But without life being lost there is no atonement. We’re still stuck in our sin. Jesus did not die in some generic way of showing us that he loved us. He died taking the wrath of God upon himself! THAT’S how he showed us that he loved us. It’s called substitutionary atonement.
I know I bring up big theological words sometimes, and it’s true that it’s really the concepts I want you to remember and understand, but listen, the theological words help tremendously in being clear as to what happened on the Cross. Jesus had to die to take the wrath of God, that you and I deserved (that’s where substitute comes in), he took that upon himself in such a way that our sins are atoned for, meaning God’s justice is satisfied and reconciliation is accomplished. Substitutionary Atonement: without that, there is no Gospel. And here’s the beauty: we see it so clearly throughout the entire Bible, including here in Exodus.
Do you realize this is the second book of the Bible? We could go even earlier with this foreshadowing and forth-telling of Christ and his atoning work on the Cross, and the need for Him giving his life. We could go as early as Genesis 3:15, where we see this first declaration from God that the seed of Eve, a particular singular offspring will crush the head of the serpent. As early as Genesis, all the way through to Revelation (which we just read), Christ and his atoning work on our behalf.
Why do we see it everywhere? Because there’s only one Gospel, church. And the entire Bible attests to this Gospel. It’s just beautiful. We look at God’s Word, and I think we just need to sit here and be baffled sometimes, and in awe soaking it in. We can’t even fully comprehend the extent of God’s creative abilities and his sovereign purposes in all things. It’s beautiful; I hope you see that and feel that way. I also hope that you see today, that if you’ve never truly trusted and placed your faith, turning from sin, and believing in Christ our Substitute, I hope you hear me say, that is what it means to become a Christian, to be saved.
If you’re newer to Raintree, we’re so glad you’re here. But I have to make something clear. If you’re here because you want a change in life, you needed to take some turns in a different direction. And maybe you have, and maybe your life is even getting better. I am so happy for all of that, truly. But, do not mistake being a better moral person with being saved. If you’ve never turned and trusted in Christ, specifically as your Substitute, that’s what it means to be saved. You can do that today. Do not leave this room until you’ve either done that, or at least have talked to me or someone around you about what it means to do that.
The narrative continues in verse 29. It comes out of this section of instructions on the Passover and the Feast, and now we continue in what happened. Read with me, starting in verse 29.
12:29-42 | The Deliverance
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
33The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. (Just so you know that’s about 2 million people). 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.
The fourth and last consideration of Passover and the Gospel:
- God will do what he has promised to do.
We’ve said this multiple times throughout this series so far. It’s perhaps THE major theme throughout. Hundreds and hundreds of years later, the promise God made to the Israelites, he fulfilled. Even more hundreds and hundreds of years earlier, the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15, God fulfilled. God promised to deliver them, and he did it. We just read it! Pretty cool, huh? He did it!
And just catch this: they’re not escaping through some sneaky back door that no one knew about. Are they? They didn’t leave in the middle of the night so that no one would see them. They left right through the front door with Pharaoh watching them go. It’s almost like a whole ‘nother humiliation for Egypt. These slaves who have been slaves for more than 400 years are leaving and even plundering them. It was like God’s last way of saying very clearly, “I am the Lord. I fulfill my promises.” Except that it’s not God’s last way of saying it, is it? No no. Next week, we’ll see that he has one more perhaps even more marvelous way of declaring, “I am the Lord. I fulfill my promises” with what happens at the Red Sea.
For us, as believers and followers of Christ, today: We have been delivered from the domain of darkness, and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved son. That deliverance, which ultimately will see its full manifestation in the new heavens and the new earth, is a guarantee. Not because you or I are great, not because we’ve earned it. We haven’t! We’ve earned nothing except God’s wrath. But because God does what he says he will do.
You know, I’m going to fail my family as a husband and father. I will make mistakes; I will fail at times. I have already and I will again. Every father in here has, and every father in here will again. But, listen. Our heavenly Father won’t fail. He doesn’t make mistakes. He won’t abandon us, or forsake us. It’s not even part of his nature to be able to do so. That’s our God.
When we observe the Lord’s Supper as a church, which is basically the Passover for New Testament Christians, it’s a commemoration and a participation in something that we were not physically there for, Christ’s body being broken and his blood being spilt on our behalf. We’re going to have the Lord’s Supper next Sunday night at the family meeting, which is what we do every other month at our family meetings, and then the other months we do it on Sunday mornings.
But having the significance of the Lord’s Supper in mind, that Jesus instituted it on Passover, no doubt on purpose, and that there was no lamb at the Lord’s Supper, became Christ himself was the Lamb—having that in mind, listen to these words from one writer I read this week:
“This first Passover night was a night of the Lord, much to be observed; but the last Passover night, in which Christ was betrayed, was a night of the Lord, much more to be observed, when a yoke heavier than that of Egypt was broken from off our necks, and a land better than that of Canaan set before us. That was a temporal deliverance, to be celebrated in their generations; this an eternal redemption, to be celebrated world without end!”
We have more reason to celebrate than we can even comprehend. And we should celebrate in ways that help us to remember, even seemingly ritualistic ways! Not because there’s something magical about ritual. But because there’s power in remembering. So I hope all of you will be there next week as we observe the Lord’s Supper in the Family Meeting. But I also hope you’ll join me in singing a hymn I grew up with that is celebratory. And we’re going to sing it Accapella, because I want us to hear each other’s voices, even if you’re not that great of a singer.