Halting the Destroyer

Easter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:50
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20180318 Halting the Destroyer Psalm 116:5-7 (Opening) 5  Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6  The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7  Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Introduction When it comes to holidays, most kids will tell you their favorite is Christmas. My second favorite holiday as a kid was Independence Day. I didn’t call it that, I always called it Fourth of July. I loved the fourth of July because it was a time when my family would get together and just have a good time together. I remember going to the beach on the fourth. I remember parades down Main Street in East Millinocket. The parades were huge, to me. Marching bands from local high schools, different groups like the Boy Scouts and the VFW marching in uniform down the street carrying flags and banners. And of course, after sundown, fireworks. Dad would pop a huge grocery bag full of popcorn and we’d all watch the fireworks and snack on popcorn while sitting on a quilt on the side of a hill. We would get to visit with family, cousins I hadn’t seen in forever (at least a few months), and spend time running around and playing, eating hot dogs, and just having a good time. Looking back, I can see how we were celebrating and enjoying our freedom and expressing our thankfulness for those who were responsible for our freedom. In the spring of 1999, we moved from Dayton, Ohio, to Washington DC. That was my first experience of Independence Day in DC. Let me tell you, it was a zoo. For us, it wasn’t so bad, because we were living a few blocks from the Potomac River, so we just walked to the river, put a quilt on the grass and watched the fireworks, and when they were over, we walked home. But for those people who went to the National Mall for the festivities, it was a different story, especially after 9/11. There are lots of security check-points now, and restrictions on what you can carry with you. But there’s still hundreds of thousands of people who gather on the National Mall for the event. I’ve been told it’s an amazing experience, celebrating Independence Day with a few hundred thousand of your closest friends. But I really wonder if the traffic afterwards is worth the experience. I’m not really a crowd person. Why Passover? The Jewish feast of Passover was kind of like our Independence Day celebration, because it celebrated Israel’s freedom from captivity in Egypt. When Israel was settled in the land of Canaan, they were told to congregate at the place where the tabernacle or the temple was to celebrate Passover. That’s what Moses told them in the beginning of Deuteronomy chapter 16. Deuteronomy 16:1-2 1 “Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. That’s why there were always so many people traveling to Jerusalem for Passover. The story about when Jesus was a child and was left behind in Jerusalem in the end of Luke chapter 2 took place during Jesus’ family’s annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. In John’s gospel, John tells us of three separate times that Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. Passover was one of the “big deal” celebrations. When God told Moses about the institution of Passover, He told Moses it would be a feast they would keep every year forever. Exodus 12:14-15 14 “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. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that follows for the next seven days, was an important reminder for Israel of how God saved them by rescuing them from bondage in Egypt. God’s Command When Israel had been in Egypt for almost 430 years, God sent Moses back to Egypt as His spokesman to free Israel from Egypt, and to punish Egypt and their gods. God, through Moses, sent plagues against the Egyptians, attacking their belief and their Gods. First God turned all the water into blood, and no one could drink the water. Then God sent a plague of frogs. Frogs were everywhere. Then God sent a plague of gnats or lice, depending on your translation. Then a plague of swarming insects. But God protected the Israelites from the insects and all the following plagues. After the swarming insects, God sent a plague that killed the Egyptian livestock. Then God sent boils that plagued all the Egyptians and any of their surviving animals. Next God sent hail; the worst hail anyone had ever seen, that ruined all the crops and broke the trees in the fields. Then God sent locusts to eat everything that was left growing in the fields. The ninth plague God sent was darkness; a darkness so dark that you could feel it, and it was dark for three days. These nine plagues didn’t convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites. At first pharaoh would relent, but then he would change his mind. So God sent the tenth and final plague to Egypt. When God explained it to Moses and Aaron, He started by changing their entire calendar. Exodus 12:1-2 1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. The calendars of all the other cultures around them, and where they would be going to, started in the fall, with the fruit harvest. God was changing things up; He wanted them to be different. Another reason God wanted to change when their calendar year started was because He was about to free them from Egypt and make them a nation, beginning on that day. God gave Moses and Aaron specific instructions to pass on to the Israelites for the next few days. Exodus 12:3-6 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. There’s a lot in here, so let me try to unpack it for you. Basically, if you had a small family, you were to team up with other families to have enough people to eat all of a yearling lamb or goat. Notice God says to bring the lamb into the household. During this four to five day period from the tenth to the 14th, the lamb would be inspected to ensure it was without blemish; no broken or badly healed bones, no sores or anything else that would make the lamb less than perfect. But think about this. If you have kids and pets, you’ll understand what I’m talking about here. I would imagine the household would begin to get attached to the lamb somewhat during those four days. It’s always around, always under foot, so I imagine it would become something of a pet, at least to the children in the household. That would probably make the sacrifice a bit more difficult for the members of the household who got attached to that lamb hanging around in the house. When the lamb was sacrificed, the blood would be caught in a basin. Exodus 12:7 7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. Why were they supposed to put the blood on the doorposts and lintel of the houses? Exodus 12:13 13 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 no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. Later in the chapter, Moses gives more detail on how to put the blood on the doorposts and the lintel of the house where you share the lamb as a meal, and why. Exodus 12:22-23 22 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. 23 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. This is where the name of the feast comes from, here in verse 23. Some scholars think Passover isn’t the best translation of the Hebrew word here. Other places, the word is translated as “hover” or “halt”, so they say it should be that “Yahweh will halt the destroyer from entering your houses to strike you”. The blood on the doorposts and lintel were a sign and a protection from the destroyer. That’s why Moses told them to remain in the houses until morning. Any firstborn outside the houses that were marked with the blood would forfeit his life. God also told Moses how the lamb was supposed to be cooked. Exodus 12:8-10 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. Since they were going to have to leave in a hurry, roasting the lamb on an open fire was the best way to cook it, because there would be no cleanup required for cooking utensils. The lamb would be skinned and dressed out, but not butchered, so it would be cooked whole. And since they couldn’t take the leftovers with them, they were to be burned in the fire. The entire feast is all about doing things in a hurry. Numbers chapter nine gives us a little more information about the rules of cooking and eating the lamb. Numbers 9:12 12 They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it. They weren’t allowed to break the bones to distribute the meat, or to get rid of what was left over. Not only did God specify how to cook the lamb, but He explained how they were to dress while eating. No bare feet and sweatpants. God was specific. Exodus 12:11-12 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 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. Not only were they supposed to cook it quickly with little cleanup required, but they were supposed to be dressed to travel, ready to go out the door when they were done eating it. God was telling them that this was going to be the last plague, and that Egypt was going to give up and let them go, but they weren’t to sit around and wait after they were allowed to leave; they were to leave immediately, and not look back. Not only was the lamb to be cooked for a hurried departure, but the bread was to be cooked quickly, too; no yeast was to be used in making the bread, because that would take too long. Unleavened bread is quick to make, it takes maybe 20 minutes from mixing to having a finished “loaf” if that’s what you want to call it. God wanted them to be ready to go. The Result Moses and Aaron told the Israelites what they were supposed to do, and they obeyed God’s commands. They did what they were told to do, and God did what He said He would do. Exodus 12:29-32 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!” Pharaoh was finally convinced to let them leave; he practically begged them to leave. He could see that something was different between the Egyptians and the Israelites. He was realizing that the God of the Israelites was more powerful than the gods of Egypt, and there was nothing he could do to keep them there. And Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who realized it and wanted the Israelites to leave. Exodus 12:33-36 33 The 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. The Egyptians would do anything and give anything to have the Israelites leave. They asked the Egyptians for “parting gifts”, and they gladly gave them what they asked for, just as long as they were actually willing to leave and not come back. Pharaoh asked Moses and Aaron to bless him before they left. The rest of the Egyptians gave what they had to the Israelites, because the Israelites asked them for these things. Eventually, part of what was plundered from Egypt would be used to build the Tabernacle and all the furnishings for it, so the Israelites could worship God the way God wanted them to worship Him. Numbers 33:3-4 3 They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments. God fought a war against Egypt and their gods, and as a result, God executed judgement on Egypt and their gods. Egypt was the richest nation in the world when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. After God was done with them, they lost almost everything, and even gave their personal wealth to the Israelites before they left. When God made His covenant with Abraham, His promise to Abraham was specific. Genesis 15:13-14 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. God held up His end of the bargain, and in doing that, He instituted the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to remind Israel that He keeps His promises, and that He is more powerful than any of their enemies. By celebrating both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread every year, they were to keep remembering this miraculous event that freed around 2 million people from bondage to Egypt. Exodus 12:40-42 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. To this day, the Jews are still celebrating the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and they tell the story of God’s plagues on Egypt, and that He saved the Israelites, freeing a nation to be His people. Conclusion So you’re probably thinking, “Ok, I think I’ve seen Charlton Heston in that movie. Why is that important to us?” As Christians, we need to understand the history that lead up to what we read in the Gospels. If we don’t understand that history, a lot of what we read about in the Gospels and in the rest of the New Testament, doesn’t have the same impact, and some of it is beyond understanding. If we don’t understand that the Jews were commanded to congregate at the Tabernacle or the Temple for the sacrifices for Passover, or any other sacrifice, then we don’t understand the reason Jesus, or any other Jews in the New Testament, spent so much time traveling to Jerusalem. Not only that, but there are clues, prophecies hidden throughout the Old Testament that point to Jesus, the events of His life, His death, and His resurrection. Matthew 5:17 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. With a better understanding of the Old Testament, we can understand what Jesus is saying here. We can see the prophecies that were pointing to Him. We can begin to see the gospel through the lenses that the people of the first century saw Jesus through, and we can better understand what He accomplished and is continuing to accomplish in our lives today. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (Closing) 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 13
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