90 Days with Scripture: Exodus 7-12, Freedom for God’s People (2)

Friends,

This is part two of my sermon on the Exodus narratives. In this sermon I focus on Pharaoh and the Passover. This is reverse side of the sermon for last week that focused on Prophets (Moses & Aaron) and the Plagues. The exodus, while a real even in history, also becomes a type of what God has done in Christ. Now he is still setting people free from slavery, but his people are not located in one particular nation, nor are his people from one particular nation. Instead, as John wrote in Revelation (Rev. 7:9), he is drawing people from every tribe, nation, people and language–a great multitude. But again, as I point out, this is not about mere liberation. If God is setting people free he is doing so that he may build a nation of those people who will, in Peter’s language, declare the praises of Him who set them free (see 1 Peter 2:9-10; Colossians 1:13-14). So we have no mere liberation theology here, but a powerful declaration of God who makes himself known (see Exodus 5:2 where Pharaoh says he does not know God; and 6:3, 7; 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 9:14, 29; 10:2; 14:4, 8 where God says these plagues were that he might make himself known.) Now God is known through Jesus Christ.

90 Days with Scripture
Week 4: October 19, 2008
Exodus 7-12: Freedom for God’s People, pt b

Introduction

1 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt-worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you-so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

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 neighbor, 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 people 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 cooked in water, but roast it over the fire-head, legs and inner parts. 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-both men 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.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn 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. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

As I said last week, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is likely the most significant historical event to ever occur on planet earth. The problem is that often times the Exodus has been reduced to a mere type with the requisite anti-type being neglected. That is, some have spent so much time focusing on the Exodus as mere Exodus that they have neglected the greater theological significance of the narrative itself. Thus, what I have tried to do in last week and this week is describe for you the theological significance of the type and the direction the type is pointing us; namely, Jesus Christ.

This is all to say that the Exodus narratives and the historical events themselves point us beyond the mere story of a nation being brought out of slavery; people being brought out of slavery is nothing new: We have had that happen in our own nation. This is not to denigrate such an accomplishment, but it is to say that what is more important than the exodus of the nation of Israel is the manner in which the events took place and what the author of the narratives told us about the events that took place. The author necessarily interpreted the events through a theological lens and his perspective is meant to shape our understanding of the God who affected the event itself.

So last week, we looked at the first of two points: Prophets and Plagues. This week, we’ll conclude by looking at Pharaoh and Passover.
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First, we’ll look at the Pharaoh who was the king of Egypt at the time. In God’s dealings with Pharaoh we have a demonstration of who runs the earth. Pharaoh thought for certain that it was himself. So he continued time and time again to stand up against the Lord and refused to alter his position.

But you see, Pharaoh was not working alone and he was not only protecting his interests. Pharaoh was working for the enemy doing all he could to snuff out the Lord’s people in order that the enemy might snuff out the Lord’s plans. This is a strange man who sacrificed the lot of his own people because of his stubborn refusal to let Israel go. What we learn is that the gods we set up always betray us in the end. They are only concerned about their own self-interests.

But I wonder: At the outset, we were told that God would make Moses like God to pharaoh and Aaron would be his prophet. So if YHWH was able to make Moses appear this way in Pharaoh’s presence, where did Pharaoh’s strength to resist the Lord come from? Was Pharaoh being played by his ‘gods’? “This is a section that focuses sharply on the conflict between heaven and earth, issuing in the same lesson which, in later years, Nebudchadnezzar had to learn the hard way.” You might recall from my sermon series on Daniel last year:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

Simply put, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. I suspect that even now we have this strange misconception that we are the ones running the earth and putting up the show. Pharaoh learned this lesson in a terribly difficult way.  We see here that God takes back what is his by demolishing all that is not. He said, “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.”

____________________

Finally, we have the Passover. In the Passover event we see that God made a distinction between who belongs to God and who does not. He said, “But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will Know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

It’s not everyone who was saved. The Egyptians suffered. Mightily. But the bottom line is this: It was only those who were under the protection of blood who were saved. If an Israelite did not paint his door with blood and keep everyone inside, he would have suffered loss. If an Egyptian had covered his door with blood and stayed inside, he would have been saved. It wasn’t just being a part of Israel that saved them, it was being under the blood that made them distinct. He didn’t say, “When I notice you are an Israelite I will pass over you.” He said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” I suppose we might justifiably say that anyone who came under the blood would have been safe.

One writer noted, “Ever since the fourth plague, the people of Israel had been set apart from the Egyptians, but in each case it was the onset of the plague itself that made their distinct status evident.” (Motyer, 126) The Israelites were special people whom God protected. Motyer goes on, “What we can say with certainty is that by the wonder of divine mercy they were the Lord’s people, the subjects of his saving activity, the people destined for deliverance and, in the meantime, in a world under his just and awesome judgment, they were a people set apart, the objects of his loving, protective care.” (123)

God did not allow his people, his special people, his chosen people, his unique people to be washed under the flood or swept under the rug or destroyed by the rebellion of humans. In the Passover God made a distinction and demonstrated in a mighty way that his judgment is just. He made a distinction and demonstrated that he will not allow anyone in heaven or earth or under the earth to destroy his people or the purposes he has planned for them. He demonstrates that he is able to protect those he loves.

It should give us great comfort; great strength; great courage. God demonstrates that he is able to protect his own. The gods of Pharaoh cannot say the same. So I don’t know why people blame God for this episode. We want this contest don’t we? We want to see whose god reigns, whose god is supreme, whose god has the power? I don’t know why people blame god for so much death when people are given every opportunity to come under his protection.

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13″I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

God himself provided the protection for his people. Even now, as then.
__________________________

We have examined four aspects of the Exodus narratives.

So in the Prophets we have a discovery of who speaks for God.

In the Plagues we have a declaration of who is God.

In the Pharaoh we have a demonstration of who runs the Earth.

And in the Passover we see a distinction between those who belong to God and those who do not.

But it is my contention that we are learning more here than just a mere history of the ancient Israelites and Egyptians. My contention is that we are learning something here about God’s dealings with humans and God’s ability and design to preserve the people he has called into being.

The battle here was that Egypt’s intent was to keep God’s people enslaved and thus prevent God from fulfilling his promise to bring them into the Land.

If the events that took place leading up to the Exodus, the plagues, the confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh, were designed so that God might show his power and his name be declared in all the earth (9:16), then can their repetition in this book serve any less purpose to us? We too are meant to know God. We are meant to know the God who makes himself known even if today we only read about these events we see God who triumphs over the gods we have erected. He says: Go ahead and trust in your gods. Go ahead and put your faith in the gods your hands manufacture. He doesn’t deny us that much.  But we should not be surprised, either, when the True God wages war against those gods; neither when we suffer casualties and death because we have not chosen wisely.

The same event is happening, I believe, even today. God desires to be known and has made himself known. And he is redeeming his people from slavery all around the world. God’s people, however unknown to us, but known to him, are slaves all around the world and God is in the process of setting them free-overcoming the powers that hold them captive and setting them free by the Son: If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

But it seems that there is also the same result for those who refuse to know God. He still makes himself known, but now through Jesus; and the results are the same: some will be saved, some will not:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

He is gathering his people from among the nations. He is setting them free through Jesus. He is creating, Peter wrote, a ‘chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light.’

But we only get there through Jesus. Jesus is our message. Jesus we proclaim. When Jesus is lifted up will he draw all people unto himself. We have only one message of hope and deliverence for God’s people: Look to Jesus. Be free in Christ. He is our Exodus.

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