Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Blood and Yeast

(continuing blogging my script on Exodus 12:1-29 from sunday. You can read part one here.)

Well, all that changes in verses 6 and 7. Let’s read them together. ‘take care of them (the lambs or the goats) until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight, then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. So this, for reasons not yet fully explained is how the Israelites will escape, by faithfully trusting in God’s means of salvation. It is only through sacrifice, and that, a bloody sacrifice that Israel will escape. So, find a perfect lamb, kill it and smear its blood on your doorframes. The Israelites would have to do this in faith believing that this would protect them from the wrath of God and mean their escape from Egypt.

There are even traces of this in the way the Lord commands His people to eat the meal. Look at verses 8 and eleven with me, verse 8 says ‘that same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire along with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast’. Now these may sound like fairly mundane instructions to us, but I think there’s more to it. The bitter herbs would have been native to Egypt, there would be no time to find herbs from further a field and the same with the unyeasted bread, there was not time to make proper bread. The message is clear: the Passover means you are leaving Egypt, so be prepared. And we see this again in verse 11 if we look at that together ‘this is how you are the eat it; with your coat tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover’. Haste. Not relaxation and enjoyment, haste. This meal, this sacrifice is a necessity, not a luxury. Be ready to flee Israel, the time is near. But there’s something else we see that right at the end of that verse. ‘It is the Lord’s Passover’. Something new has entered the equation, that’s the first time that the word ‘Passover’ gets a mention in chapter 12. What does it mean?

Well look with me at verses 12 and 13, as we start to get to the crux of the matter. ‘on that same night I will strike down every firstborn –both men and animals- and I will bring judgement on all the god’s of Egypt, I am the Lord’. God will do as He promised in chapter 11, he will strike down every firstborn, note it doesn’t say ‘every firstborn of Egypt’, but just ‘every firstborn’; this is going to be as serious for Israel if they don’t do anything about it. What else is God going to do as He sweeps though Egypt? He is going to judge the god’s of Egypt, the false demonic god’s that Egypt bows down to, including often the Pharaoh of the time. God is judging these idols as well. He is striking down the animals that are associated with them, as well as attacking the Egyptian agricultural economy. It really strikes me how this verse ends with ‘I am the Lord’. That’s how we can trust Him, that’s how we know this is going to happen. I. Am. The. Lord. No one else. I am God, I rule Egypt and I will judge their false Gods. But what about Israel, will they escape, and what has this got to do with their dinner plans?

Well verse 13 tells us ‘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’ God will pass over the houses of those who have killed the lamb, and trust in it’s blood. And there will be no destruction in those houses.

God is satisfied to leave alone the Israelites, but why? I think the key to that question is in verse 13. it says ‘when I see the blood’. The blood on the door wasn’t to let God know where Israel was and where Egypt was, the stories of the preceding plagues show that God needed no help in seeing who His people were. He knew the boundaries of their land, he knew which their cattle were, He could shelter them in a hailstorm and give them light while the rest of Egypt was under a heavy darkness. So the blood must serve some other purpose. God had come to impose a just judicial punishment on ‘every firstborn son in Egypt’, He saw the blood on the houses of Israel, and passed over them. What ever was happening in the house, the Lord looks at the blood that He has provided,

Our story now takes us briefly from the Passover itself to what was going to happen after it. Before the Passover Israel could not leave Egypt, after the Passover they could not stay, not only because Egypt would not let them, but because the Passover marked them out as people committed to walking with God so they needed to go with Him into the wilderness. The soon to come days of a post Passover, free living, Israel were anticipated by these commands. We can see what this feast was for in verse 17 ‘celebrate the feast of unleavened bread because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.’ They celebrated God’s salvation just as we do when we sing of the cross.
So what happened when Israel obeyed these instructions? Well we know they did obey, lets look at verses 21 and 22 together: then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them ‘go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood on the basin and put some of the blood on the top and both sides of the door frame. Not one of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning,’ So Israel obeyed what God had told them. We can perhaps imagine the scene in some of the houses with slightly older children, maybe seven or eight years old, not knowing really what was going on but that a lamb had to die or he was going to…We can see him asking his father, have you done it yet dad, have you done it yet? And the Dad making sure the door frame was liberally coated in the lambs blood, knowing that only those under the blood of the lamb would escape. And so it was as we see, look at verse 23 with me ‘when the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the door-frame and pass over that door way, and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.’

So the blood on the doorframe worked. The blood keeps them safe and shelters them from the judgement of God. In verses 24-28 we see God giving Israel instructions about how this event is to be remembered in the forthcoming generations, and we see the heart of the matter in verse 27 ‘it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians’. So what’s Passover all about? God only looks at the blood, and when He sees the blood His wrath is averted.

And look at verse 29 with me, God was true to His word ‘at midnight the Lord struck down the firstborn of all in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well’. God passed through, and the firstborn of all in Egypt, from whatever social position they were in, lay dead.

Well, that’s an interesting bit of Old Testament history there, but what possible relevance has it got to Reading Family Church in 2008?

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