Friday, January 21, 2011

Hall of Faith Series - The Passover

We leave one series yesterday and pick up a long-standing one today.  It is Friday and we will again continue through our tour of the Hall of Faith as found in Hebrews.  We continue with our study of Moses.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. Hebrews 11:28 NKJV
For today's text, we return to Exodus.
So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go out of his land.  Exodus 11:10 NKJV
I am starting here to set up why the Passover was even necessary.  Much has happened since we left off with Moses in Midian last week.  Since that time, God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, Moses returned to Israel, several plagues have scourged Egypt, and Pharaoh's heart remained hardened through it all.  Pharaoh hardened his heart so many times that by now God has given him over to those desires and hardened his heart for him.  Pride has been the downfall of the small and great alike.  In this case, Pharaoh's heart of pride never let the people of God go no matter how much God showed His mercies in ending each subsequent plague on the promises of letting the Israelites go.  God knew that Pharaoh would not stand by his word so why would God end the plague on Pharaoh's false pretenses?  The answer is mercy.  How unfortunate for Pharaoh that through his pride he could not see the amazing mercy of God presented to him time and again.  God's patience is beyond what we can imagine, but it does have its limit and Pharaoh has reached that limit.  Pharaoh had more chances than many to accept God's mercy and now it is time to face God's wrath. 
Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.'" Exodus 12:1-7 NKJV
And here God establishes the Passover feast still celebrated to this day by Jewish people.  Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover feast and while Christ in the Passover is an amazing message, there are many much better than I at presenting that message.  I do recommend, though, as we go through this chapter, that you look for Christ.  I am sure you will find Him. 

There are a few key points here. One is that the people of Israel were supposed to share and not hoard.  Note that if their household was too small for an entire lamb, then they were to share with their neighbor.  It was not about many many lambs you can afford, but how much you can realistically eat at the meal.  This same idea was expressed in Paul when he shared that the excess God provides for us is not for our own enrichment but to share with our less fortunate brethren so that there is equality.  Another important point is the fact that the lamb had to be perfect.  This was a sacrifice to God and God demands perfection.  While the Israelites were unable to achieve perfection under the law, their sacrifice had to be in order to be accepted for their sin.  So the Israelites were commanded to take this lamb, keep it for a time, sacrifice it at twilight on the Passover night, and sprinkle some of the blood on the doorposts of the house they were in. 
'Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire.And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.  Exodus 12:8-11 NKJV
We see the urgency of the meal God was having them prepare.  They are to eat it that very night and eat all of it.  This is why it was important to share because they had no time to be weighed down with either gorging themselves or taking any of it with them.  It was to be killed, cooked, and eaten in its entirety.  Even the bread they were to prepare was to unleavened as there was no time to wait for the dough to rise.  The idea was urgency.  They were not even to take the time to butcher it before cooking nor were they to wait for water to boil to cook it that way.  They were to take the whole thing and just roast it over a fire.  When they did finally eat, it was to be done as though they were ready to leave at a moment's notice in that they were to have their belts and sandals on and their staffs in their hands. 
'For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.'  Exodus 12:12-14 NKJV
And this is what the Passover is.  God is casting judgment on Egypt where the firstborn of everyone and everything will be killed.  The lamb's blood on the doorposts of the Israelites is the sign to God to pass over that house and not subject it to His judgment.  Note that the Israelites were saved from the wrath of God by the blood of a lamb.  This final judgment upon Egypt is what ultimately sets the Israelites free from the yoke of Egypt and sends them on their journey to the land promised so long ago to Abraham.  This was a momentous occasion and God commanded them to commemorate it each year to remember what God has done for them.  The Jewish people continue to observe the Passover, even to this day and even to this day they are still blind to Christ in the Passover. 
'Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 'On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.'"  Exodus 12:15-20 NKJV
And here God gives his instructions for how the Passover is to be commemorated.  This can be a whole lesson in and of itself so we will leave that where it is for today as God's instructions for His people to commemorate the Passover.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. Exodus 12:21-23 NKJV
And now Moses is sharing what the Lord told him with the people of Israel.  He reiterates the gravity of the situation that God is coming to cast judgment upon Egypt.  The people of Israel will be saved from that judgment, but only by the blood of the lamb on their doorposts.  They had to remain in their households, behind the blood of the lamb, and God 's judgment would pass over them.
"And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the LORD will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.'" So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.  Exodus 12:24-27 NKJV
And now Moses shares the annual commemoration of the Passover.  We also see the purpose of it.  God is not interested in empty celebrations, but wanted the people to remember through the generations what God did for them that day.  It was a matter of sharing that amazing account from generation to generation as time past on so that the people would never forget the power and goodness of God. 
Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.   Exodus 12:28 NKJV
And here is where faith comes in.  Moses, hearing the voice of God and having faith that God would stand true to His word, shared the commands of God with the Israelites.  His faith produced the action of sharing God's message with the people.  The people having faith in God and trusting Him at His word, obeyed those commands.  Faith produced the action of obedience and they were saved.  I think this is a great picture of the inseparability of faith and obedience.  If the Israelites claimed to have faith in God but did not put blood on their doorposts or ventured outside during the judgment, would they have been saved?  No they would not and this is not because they were saved by the work of painting blood on the door, but because their faith was evident in their actions.  If they truly believed God's word how could they not do all that Moses said?  Their faith in God saved them, but only because it was a real faith.  Real faith produces obedience. 
And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck 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 livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, "Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the LORD as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also."  Exodus 12:29-32 NKJV
And so judgment comes.  It comes just as God said it would.  It is relentless and unavoidable to anyone not covered by the blood of the lamb.  There is no escape, no fight, and no defiance.  There are only the cries of pain of families everywhere hopelessly watching their firstborn die.  From rich to poor, from free to prisoner, from slave to ruler, and from animal to human, there was death everywhere.  Only those Israelites who put the lamb's blood on their door and remained inside were saved.  The Pharaoh rose in the night hearing the cries of his nation.  He finally relented and let the people of God leave.  We will see next week that he even then changes his mind. 

What we see today is a wonderful example of faith and works working together.  We see, as is the whole point of Hebrews 11, that faith produces works.  One can not be separated from the other.  If you have no works, you have no faith.  If you have faith, you will have works.  If you have no obedience, you have no faith.  If you have faith, you will have obedience.  It was not enough to the people of Israel to proclaim empty words of faith without the obedience of painting the lamb's blood on their doorposts. It was a true faith expressed in the action of their obedience to God's commands. They believed that judgment was coming and they believed that God would spare them if they heeded His commands.  May we have that same heart.  Our faith must produce obedience or we must really consider whether our faith is real.  If we claim to have faith in Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and God then we must have believe all that He said and believe in all that He claims to be.  We must believe His word to be true and applicable to us.  If you have faith that Jesus is Lord, He must actually be Lord.  You can not say that you have faith in Jesus as your Lord if he is not actually your Lord.  That would be like me saying that I love spending time with my wife but always finding excuses to be away from her.  What I mean is that our words are meaningless without the actions to back them up.  It is like a small child grudgingly saying he is sorry because mom made him.  There is no meaning behind it.  The child is not sorry and whatever he was doing wrong, he will more than likely do again once mom is not looking.  If we claim to have faith in Jesus, there must be obedience in our lives.  We are not saved by calling Jesus Lord, we are saved by believing that He is Lord.  We are saved by our faith in that He actually is Lord of our lives and savior of our souls.  We are saved by faith through grace, but that faith must be genuine. 
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.  James 2:26 NKJV

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