Views on Sin and Salvation

Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Understanding our salvation in the light of sin



This morning, we are going to wrap up our series out of Exodus and I hope that you have all seen that these ancient texts are more relevant to what is going on in our world than we realize and they provide more wisdom and guidance than what is being written even today. As Paul attests in his letters, all Scripture is God breathed and everything that was written is the past was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. We all could use a little more hope. In addition, being able to live together in unity is dependent on Christians sharing the same heart and the same mind that has been formed through the truth of God’s word. There is no other way to build a lasting Christian community apart from knowing and faithfully living out what has been revealed to us through the Word. And so my prayer for the church is that we would not be divided like our society but by being like minded, sharing the same love, and being united in spirit and purpose, we might be the light of the world. With that, let’s turn the first of 2 passages that we will look at on this Communion Sunday.


Exodus 10:21–29 ESV
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the Lord; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrive there.” But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”
This morning we are going to look at the subject of sin and salvation as we discuss the final two plagues along with the Passover and we’ll see that:
Sin hardens our hearts
There is ultimate justice for sin
Only the blood of the Lamb can save us from sin.
One of the great tactics of the enemy is to deceive us into believing that sin is not a big deal in our lives. After all God forgives us and loves us unconditionally with all of our flaws. Though that may be true on the part of God, it does mean that we don’t suffer the personal consequence for our sin. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. For example, if my children committed a crime, I would still love them and forgive them but they would still have to deal with the consequence of their sin in this lifetime, whatever that may be.
From a spiritual sense, the most dangerous consequence of on-going sin in our lives is the hardening of our hearts towards God. In Pharoah, we are given the prototypical example of the effect that sin has in our own relationship with God. And I’m sure by now, you’ve noticed one of the most troubling verses in the Bible, “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart...” When someone with an individualistic western worldview reads something like this, we get confused and uncomfortable. The problem is quite obvious, if God is the one who hardens Pharaoh’s heart, how can Pharaoh be held responsible for what he did? Punishing Pharoah for something he had no control of seems rather unjust. And suddenly Pharoah becomes the victim of this story and not the villain. God then takes the role of the villain and we forget the evil that rests in every human heart.
We have a tendency to make God the scapegoat for the consequences of our sin. We make ourselves the victims because believe we have no control over these matters. (It’s the social norms or my past hurts or my addictive personality that is leading to sinful behavior.) Rarely do we cast ourselves as the villain that commits these sins because in our generation, we hold more to the tenants of a therapeutic gospel than the real gospel that speaks a better word. Until sin becomes utterly sinful in our hearts and in our minds, the true gospel has little power to free you nor to heal you from that sin. Remember when Jesus came to proclaim the gospel, he said “Repent and believe in the gospel. Turn from your sin.”
Now before we accuse God of being unfair, we need to understand what is happening to Pharaoh and look at the process by which the human heart becomes hardened. If you read the entire account of the plagues, you’ll notice that in the first 5 plagues, the Scriptures tell us that Pharaoh hardened his own heart without any assistance from anyone. In fact, it isn’t until the sixth plague and onward, where it states that the Lord from that point on hardened the heart of Pharaoh. There are some compelling interpretations in Jewish rabbinic tradition for why there is this change in terms of what hardens Pharaoh’s heart at the half-way point.
Some rabbis understand that the Lord’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is a form of judgment for the lack of repentance after the first five plagues and yet far from taking away his freedom of will, God finally grants Pharaoh complete and utter freedom to do what he chooses. So in the first five plagues, God puts immense pressure on Pharoah to turn from his sin and to free the Israelites. In the last five plagues, God simply allows Pharaoh to do as he always wanted and He no longer attempts to soften Pharaoh’s heart. I think the apostle Paul might be from this same school of rabbinic thought as we read Romans 1:24
Romans 1:24 ESV
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
In other words, it can be said that when God hardens our hearts, He is actually granting us complete free will because that is the natural default state of the human heart. The real intervention is when God attempts to soften our hearts through the call to repentance but at a certain point, we can no longer heart that voice. If you think about the ninth plague, it seems a little out of place. Up to this point, God seemed to be ramping up the intensity of his judgement from frogs and gnats to killing off livestock and inflicting people with boils but now there is just some darkness. I mean whose afraid of the dark? As we experienced during the pandemic here in the Bay Area, it’s a bit creepy when it’s dark in the daytime but it’s manageable, just turn on some lights or lanterns.. Especially, if it’s only three days!
But the darkness was more than just an odd misplaced miracle, it was sign against Egypt. The preeminent idol in Egypts religious system, was Ra, the god of the sun. Pharaoh was considered semi-divine, the son of Ra. That is where we get the name Ramses, meses means the the “son of”. When people become gods unto themselves, darkness fills their hearts and the society that they create begins to reflect that darkness. The reason why our country and the world is in such a dire place is not because we’ve had a string of bad presidents, its the cumulative darkness that comes when a civilization rejects the Living God for their idols. I know that some of us don’t feel good about this uncomfortable truth because we want to believe that our hearts are generally good. Yes we could be better but no one is perfect. The biblical view is that our hearts are not good and it could be worse if not for the grace of God. The prophet Jeremiah makes this point abundantly clear.
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
More importantly, Jesus warns about the darkness that lies in every person:
Matthew 6:23 ESV
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
What you see and how you see it, creates the darkness within. Think about this, if humanity is so good, why have we just spent the last two months talking about all these issues that threaten the future of our society. The reason why we struggle with idols, misuse technology, abort our children, and constrict people’s religious freedoms, is not because we are good people but our hearts are desperately sick with sin and our land is filled with that darkness. And you might be thinking that’s not true of me, then I would say you don’t really know yourself. Could you imagine if there was a device that could record your every thought, your every word, you every actions behind closed doors, that would be a frightening invention. (I thought about why I stay away from social media and I realized it’s not just because I like privacy or I’m old. There are a plenty of people older than me that use it perfectly well. Part of it is, I don’t want a permanent record of my actions and thoughts.)
So if the Bible is true and we are all covered by the darkness of sin, what is the ultimate justice for that sin? The answer lies in the account of the final plague.
Exodus 11:4–6 ESV
So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 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. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.
Exodus 12:21–27 ESV
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the 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 will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 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 the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
At first glance, it may seem like the last plague was simply retribution for all the baby boys that the Egyptians murdered in the Nile River. (Kind of like an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth type justice. For every son of Israel that was killed, God takes the life of an Egyptian son.) That would seem very poetic from a human standpoint but that is far beneath the holy standards of God’s justice. I’ll talk more about the Passover as we prepare for communion, but we see that whether you were a Jew or an Egyptian, everyone’s life was threatened by the angel of death or what is referred to as the destroyer.
Again in our culture, we have a very hard time with this view of God. No matter how morally bankrupt the Egyptians were, some might argue that God went too far. And all of us would definitely have a hard time with the fact that it’s not only the Egyptians God threatens but it’s also, the Israelites as well. Unless, your house was marked by the blood of the passover Lamb, you and family were not safe from this plague of death. And in order for us to understand this act of judgement on the part of God, we have to understand the place of the first born son in patriarchal cultures. I know that patriarchy is under a lot of scrutiny these days but God does work within human culture and some times we need to see beyond our historic moment.
In our extremely individualistic society, we don’t think of ourselves in terms of being part of a household and how important that is. But even in our culture, losing a child is a far greater punishment than losing your own life. That is something that you would not desire on even the worst of your enemies. I don’t know about you, but my heart breaks for the Egyptians maybe because I wasn’t enslaved by them but could there have be any other way? And the answer to that is no because of what the first born son represents? In traditional cultures, the first born son is the symbolic head of that family because he represents the on-going perpetuation of that family line.
In a time when religious views on eternal life were opaque and unclear, the only guarantee that your life and the life of your family would carry on, was through the first born son. And in cultures that place the destiny of the family far above what happens to the individual members, the first born son becomes all important. Albeit in a temporal and limited way, the first son represents the life of that family and all of their future hopes. (Some of you with older brothers are probably rolling your eyes.) We are far less patriarchal but there still have clues of this in our culture where the wife takes the last name of the husband and their children are given their father’s last name. When there are no more sons in a family line, we even talk about how that family line dies. So when the Scriptures say something like:
1 John 5:12 ESV
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
This is not something that is a new concept to the ears of an ancient culture. What is new is the concept that unless you have the Son of God, you do not have life.
Now going back to the example in Exodus, when God takes the life of the first born, it’s a clear message to the Egyptians. All that you have placed your hope in for the future, everything you have trusted to secure the perpetual life of your family, is now cut off. No wonder God warns Pharoah, because of what you and your people have done, there will be a piercing cry heard throughout Egypt, the likes of which you have never heard before and will never hear again. On that terrifying night in Egypt the payment for the debt of sin for both Egyptians and Israelites had come due. And this brings us to the final point of what can save us? And the answer is only the blood of the Lamb.
In Exodus 13:15, we read what Moses taught the people of Israel about that fateful day forward.
Exodus 13:15 ESV
For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
Redemption refers to a payment or purchase in the hopes of saving someone or something. The sacrifice of the lamb was meant to be the payment for the debt of sin so that the destroyer would pass over all the houses marked by its blood. But as Judaism developed, their own prophets and priests realized that it’s not the blood of an actual lamb that will save us but the lamb represents a future Savior, who will pay the price of sin once and for all. This is why when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he said:
John 1:29 (ESV)
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Modern Christians may not be comfortable with the idea of the debt of sin but there is no way to get around it. There is no such thing as free forgiveness because anytime someone sins, there is some form of payment needed. Either the sinner pays it, society pays it, or the one who has ben sinned against pays. If someone steals money from you, either he has to pay it back or your can forgive him but it still costs you something. If someone cheats on their taxes, it’s not free money, society and the nation makes the payment.
So it is when we sin against God, as we read in Romans 6:23
Romans 6:23 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Either we have to pay for our sin or God has to pay and for one time in history, God graphically shows us a partial glimpse of what it might like it if we have to make the payment ourselves. Out of His great love and mercy, God usually depicts the final judgment only in word pictures like separation, death, or lake of fire. Maybe that doesn’t hit us that hard but the weeping and the gnashing of teeth that was heard in Egypt will be nothing compared to the anguish men will feel when they are eternally separated from God because of their sin. Some would say that this makes God monstrous or barbaric, I would say it makes him just given the darkness of our hearts. In fact, the only chance that this accusation could even be remotely true is if God gave us no option but the fact of the matter is, He freely offers to pay our debt. This is a free gift that costs us nothing to receive but it’s a gift that cost God dearly to give. As the old song goes, “He paid a debt he did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.”
Hebrews 3:13–15 ESV
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”


Of the world religions, only Judaism and Christianity have the high point of their worship commemorated by a meal. Jews still observe the passover as God commanded them with the unleavened bread that represents their hurried escape from their affliction and the lamb that was slain for their redemption. In the years after they became a nation, 4 cups of wine were added. Three cups to represent salvation from the 3 periods of exile at the hands of the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greek, and the fourth cup symbolizing the coming of the Messiah.
For Christians, the high point of our worship is the Lord’s Supper or Communion as we refer to it. When Jesus ate his final meal before the cross, he didn’t break the bread and call it the bread of our affliction, he said, this is my body broken for you. This is the bread of my suffering. And when it came time for the fourth cup, he didn’t speak of a future Messiah, he said this is the cup of the New Covenant in my blood. And what is conspicuously missing in the Lord’s supper is any mention of a lamb because Jesus is the lamb of God, whose blood shed on the cross would be payment for debt of sin and cause death to pass us over. And for all of eternity, we will join with the angels and sing:
Revelation 5:12 (ESV)
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
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