Here we are in Exodus chapters 12 and 13, and it's round 10 of the title fight between Pharaoh and God. If you were here last week, you saw rounds one to nine. With the plagues God sent against Egypt. God's been pulling his punches again and again - just wanting Pharaoh to let his people go. But Pharaoh keeps treating God as a light weight.
There's a story of Muhammad Ali. When he's travelling on a plane. World heavyweight boxing champion. And the story goes, the plane hits some turbulence. So the passengers are asked to fasten their seat belts. And everyone does. Apart from Ali. The attendant says to him "Excuse me sir, could you please fasten your seat belt." To which Ali replies, "Superman don't need no seat belt". She looks right back at him and says, "Mr Ali, Superman don't need no air plane either".
Muhammed Ali was famous. For his high opinion of himself. Sometimes too high. And Pharaoh in his day, was the same. glorifying his heart more and more. He's no light weight - he's powerful; the ruler of Egypt; but he's no God.
Pharaoh's relentless self-glorification leaves God no option. But to stop pulling his punches. God's going to send death into the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn son... will die. From the palace to the pits. From the Egyptians to the Hebrews. God's going to bring his whole weight down of Pharaoh and the land of Egypt. This is big.
And so from verse 1 of chapter 12 we get this sense, this vibe, this anticipation that something big... bigger than anything that has happened before is about to happen. The sense both an ending. For Pharaoh and his power. And of a new beginning for the people of Israel.
You can see it in the wording. Chapter 12 verse 1:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you."
Whatever God's going to do next, it's going to mark the beginning. It's going to be remembered as the start of every new year for Israel. new year's day. In their case, the first of Nisan. The life of Israel will revolve around this day. The defining centre of who they are.
But in verses 1-20 God tells Moses that this new beginning, it's not going to come easy. It's going to come at cost.
And if Israel wants to avoid death... there's got to be a sacrifice. And so on the tenth day of the month every family has to take a spotless male lamb. They're to take it in. Keep it. Care for it. And then before the sun goes down on the fourteenth day they've got to kill it. And with its blood paint their door posts. And then that night, lamb roast for dinner. And no one is to leave the house until morning.
Because come sunset, the full weight of God's judgement is going to come crashing down. And Death will visit every first born son in the land of Egypt.
And only those who take refuge under the blood of the lamb will live. Look at verse 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.
Did you notice that this time it won't be Israel's nationality that will set them apart? It won't be their "Hebrewness" (vv 38,48-49). This time, the defining mark of God's people will be the blood of a lamb. On their door post. This time the promise of the sacrificial lamb was given to any family identifying themselves as God's people. Anyone who fears Yahweh and not Pharaoh.
And so with the gracious heads up from God. In verses 21-28 Moses passes on God's words to Israel. Which you can see in verses 21-22. Take a look.
... Moses calls all the elders of Israel and says to them, "Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb."
When I was a kid, our family had a pet lamb. Moonshine. We'd feed him twice a day with a bottle of milk. You know, as kids we'd be so excited to come home from kindergarten. Just to see Moonshine. We loved our little lamb. But do you know what the difference between my family and the Israelite family was? The difference was that their lamb, their Moonshine, was going to die in the place of their first born son. The blood of their Moonshine... was going to be painted on their door frame with a branch from a hyssop bush.
Come the fourteenth day of the month the streets of Egypt would be flowing with the blood of lambs. Imagine you're part of the family. It would be confronting; it would be moving; an emotional experience. Particularly for the sons. The family is gathered together outside their home. Dad brings out little Moonshine. The conflict going on in the son's heart. He doesn't understand why they need to kill their lamb. But kneeling down and looking into his son eyes, dad says, "Son, this lamb is going die in your place. Its blood will be poured out, so that yours doesn't have to be. Son, it will die, but you will live."
And so with blood-soaked hyssop branches they paint their door posts with the blood of the lamb. God provides Israel with a substitute. Another will die in the place of the first born sons of Israel. This lamb would die the death the son was going to die. Out of the death of the lamb, the sentence of death will pass over this family. Life will be restored.
Now, Israel having made their preparations, God acts.
And in verses 29-32, that night the Lord struck down all the firstborns in the land of Egypt. From the palace to the pits.
In a way there's been a touch of comedy in the first nine plagues. The flies, the magicians with their boils, kind of comical. But not any more.
Pharaoh hits the canvas and Egypt and its gods have been crushed under the weight of God. And finally Pharaoh says it and means it. Leave. So Israel finally leaves Egypt. What a moment. What a defining event for Israel. They leave. Free. No longer slaves. And from this point on in history, this is the thing that the life of Israel will revolve around. This is their defining moment. This will be at the centre of who they are.
But what's just happened? How are Israel meant to make sense of all of this? You might be thinking the same thing. What does all of this mean?
God tells Israel they are to interpret the events of their Exodus from Egypt as their redemption. Their freedom has been bought and paid for.
You can see it in chapter 13 verse 13 and 15. Israel are to understand what God did as redemption. And this is exactly how Israel see it as they look back in chapter 15 verse 13. "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed."
God says to Israel that this moment must be remembered. Lest you forget.
Israel's redemption is to be remembered like we remember Anzac day. The Passover becomes their national day. We don't just remember Anzac day as historical events; but for the significance of the events. When we remember, it's meant to do something in us. Cause our hearts to feel. To feel the weight of the cost. And to move us to honour the life we have because of what happened. So that somehow going forward our lives would reflect how great a cost it was. For Israel, God says, this day, the Passover day; it's to be a memorial day throughout the generations. Lest they forget.
In chapter 13 verse 3 we see it's all meant to remind Israel that their God is their Redeemer. That they're no longer slaves but his chosen children, his people:
Commemorate this day, remember this day, the day I brought you out of Egypt.
But it's not just for them. It's for the benefit of all generations after them.
We're in chapter 13. So have a look down in verse 14-16:
When you sons ask, "What does this mean? Tell them it is because the Lord redeemed us."
As Israel actively remembers the Exodus for generations ahead, they'll always have this moment at the centre of their lives as a nation. But also at the centre of their lives as individual Israelites. Shaping how they make sense of who their God is, who they are and how they are to live.
Look at verse 9:
It shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes,that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you up out of Egypt.
God redeems Israel, so that, in order that, Israel would know him as their Redeemer. That what God has done for them... would be front and centre! And deep and central. Hearts centred on God's redemption. So that it would always be on their lips. Lest they forget.
But what happens as the story of the bible unfolds, that again and again Israel took God's redemption lightly. And the deep issue woven through Israel's story is that their hearts are slaves to sin. And it wouldn't be long until Israel would be enslaved again in exile. This time in Babylon. And again Israel looked for a future redemption.
Which according to the New Testament, comes in a surprising way. Jesus actually says at one point that he's come for a new Exodus (Luke 9:31). It's a new redemption. With a new and better sacrificial lamb.
Verse 29 of John chapter 1: John the Baptist spots Jesus, and he says to his own followers, Look over there. He says,
Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
And as John's gospel builds to that moment when Jesus would be crucified. John takes every chance to remind us it's the time of the Passover. The time when the lambs are about to be sacrificed.
John 19 14-16; as Jesus is on trial. The trial before Pilate is coming to a close. And John says, "It was the day of preparation of the Passover; (when everyone's sacrificing their lambs). It was about noon... and the crowd's crying out, 'Take him away! Crucify him!' and finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified."
John 19 verse 29 - just like it's a hyssop branch was lifted up to paint the blood of the lamb on their door post in Exodus 12:22... now it's a hyssop branch lifted up to Jesus bloody face as he's hanging on the cross.
Exodus 12:46, Moses says don't break the bones of the Passover lamb. And here in John 19 verses 33-37; John points out, no bone of Jesus is broken.
All pointing to Jesus as the ultimate Passover lamb. Jesus is the true Passover lamb who takes away the sin of the world. It's as though God is bending down to us, looking you in the eyes and saying to you, "This is my Son. And he is going to lay down his life. He is going to die in your place. His blood will be poured out, so that yours doesn't have to be. My Son will die, so that you can have life."
And just like the blood of the lamb marks out God's people in Exodus, so the blood of Christ marks out God's people today. In an event that's meant to be central. To who we are. That's meant to be the pivotal point of our life's calendar. Not in a literal sense so much as the centre of who we are and what we do.
And so I wonder what is at the centre of your life? Now I know, that's a hard question to answer on the spot. But if we are to let God do his work in us, it's a question we need to seriously consider. Whether for the first time or the hundredth time.
Because if you're anything like me, my heart is prone to wander from Christ my Redeemer. So will you for a moment imagine together again what it would be like have Christ at the centre of your life? To imagine for the first time. Or reimagine for the hundredth time. What it is like to have Christ's redemption at the centre of our lives.
Imagine what it would be like to be free from the guilt of the things we've done and haven't done. To no longer have held against you, the times you've treated God lightly. When you've regarded yourself of more weight than him. imagine being free from guilt because Christ has given you his perfect record. Omagine being guiltless.
Stay with me.
Imagine what it would be like to be free from fear of judgement from God. To know that there is nothing left for God to punish. Because Christ has satisfied all of God's just and righteous anger toward us. Because of Christ, God's judgement has passed over you and fallen on Christ.
Imagine being at peace with God.
Imagine one more thing.
Imagine what it would be like to be free from being ashamed of who we are. You've been brought out from that. Because God has chosen, bought and paid for you with his own life. Who you are has changed forever. Because of Christ, you are clean, honourable, loved. Imagine being yourself.
Do you know that if you're a Christian this is already true of you. You don't have to imagine it. It's reality.
And if you're not Christian yet, it can be your reality as well. Just by coming the shelter. Of the blood of the lamb.
John tells us in the famous words of chapter 3 verses 16 that,
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
He says, "God didn't send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Christ came for you, so that you would believe in him and have new life. Freedom from sin and the guilt, shame and judgement it brings. Jesus says later, "everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin... But if the son sets you free - you're free indeed."
Jesus death and resurrection shows us that he is our only way of escape. Our only Exodus, our only way of redemption from that slavery to sin that traps us in our selfishness and in our self destructive habits and in our pride; a new start. A new centre.
Can you remember that? And make Christ your central reality? Because what a gift it is to have the blood of Christ painted on our heart. For God's redemption to be at the centre of who we are.
Let's pray that we would live feeling the feel the weight of our redemption as we should.