Last we left the Israelites; they had been set free from 430 years of slavery. To accomplish this, God had performed ten incredible miracles:
The Nile River turned to blood.
Boils on all the Egyptians.
Locusts eating all the Egyptian crops.
Hail destroying whatever the locusts didn’t.
Darkness – all day long – for three straight days.
Then, the Passover.
God sent the angel of death to take the life of the firstborn son of every Egyptian family.
Including Pharaoh’s family.
Finally, Pharaoh let the Israelites go.
Over one million slaves set out from Egypt. As they left, they followed God. He appeared to them in a gigantic, visible pillar of cloud by day and a floating, visible pillar of fire by night.
It’s like some kind of divine, GPS. Only unlike my GPS….
…God always knows where he’s going.
I. The Trap
Where does God go? “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.’ ” (Exodus 14:1-2)
This was not the fastest route. That would have taken to the northwest while hugging the shore of the Great Sea. It also would have taken them through the land of the Philistines.
God didn’t want to lead the Israelites directly into the warring country of the Philistines, God had the Israelites head to the south. Most experts believe Migdol to have been on a southern inlet of the Red Sea.
Initially this must not have seemed so bad.
They were by a giant lake.
They had plenty of water.
It was a great campsite.
They could take a dip in the water.
Build a sandcastle.
Take turns burying each other in the sand.
But then, something happened.
When Pharaoh was told that the people had fled, he changed his mind about them and said, “ ‘What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!’ So he had a chariot made ready and took his army with him – six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers all over them.” (v.5-7)
Chariots were the tanks of the ancient world. They were excellent defense because of the metal spoke wheeled buckets. They were fast because they were drawn by stallions. The standing area would be large enough for archest to draw their bow. This made them long distance threats. And the raised bed made it easy to swing down your sword on opponents, which made it a great close-range weapon.
The chariot was one of the reasons that the Egyptian army was the deadliest and strongest army in the ancient world. They had been successfully winning territory and defended their country for centuries.
The leader of their army?
It wasn’t a pillar of cloud.
Nor a pillar of fire.
It was Pharaoh himself.
We’ve talked a lot against Pharaoh in this series, but here is something positive. The Pharaoh was a brilliant war tactician. He usually took to the front lines of the army and directly his soldiers against his enemies.
And that’s what this Pharaoh did.
He had taken the reigns of this attack.
He had strapped on his battle gear.
He put on his war makeup.
He picked up his sharpest blade and his deadliest spear.
He was hell-bent on destroying Moses, Aaron, the Israelites…
They pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea. (v.9)
Suddenly, the resort area had become a death trap.
They had cattle, livestock, and luggage.
They had kids, elders, and those unable to swim.
They could either drown in the water.
Or in blood.
Was it because there were no graves is in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?
What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?
Didn’t we say to you…, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”?
It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert! (v.11-12)
Because Moses, we are TRAPPED!
Moses heard their complaints.
He listened to their concerns.
He considered their nervousness.
And responded, “Do not be afraid…The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” (v.14)
When things look SCARY, God calls us to be STILL.
Take note, because I feel like we sometimes read this wrong.
God doesn’t call us to run.
Not to fight.
Not to complain loudly.
To be still.
This seems so counter-intuitive!
It’s like a hornet’s nest that just fell off a tree. When it hits the ground, the hornets are hopping mad. They fly around looking for someone to inject their poison into. If you don’t immediately turn and run, people think you’re crazy! You must have a high level of confidence in the bug spray you have on.
God calls you to have confidence in him.
Because maybe you feel trapped.
On the one side, job loss.
On the other, eviction.
On the one side, a fatal diagnosis.
On the other, side effects from treatment.
On the one side, COVID variants.
On the other side, severe depression from continued isolation.
If you’re trapped, the temptation is to panic!
To blame God!
To wish that you were back as a slave in Egypt, because it was so much better before you following him!
Don’t you trust me?
I lived for you.
I died for you.
I rose for you.
I love you.
I care for you.
I will fight for you.
II. The Way
The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that they will go in after them. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (v.15-18)
The pillar of cloud moved.
It no longer was in front of the Israelite caravan.
But behind it.
God was between the people and the army.
At night, the cloud segued again into the roaring pillar of divine fire.
It was impenetrable.
Even the arrows from a well-trained Egyptian charioteer wouldn’t make it through.
Moses positioned himself on the banks of the sea.
He picked up the staff.
He closed his eyes.
And stretched out his hand.
At first, he felt it on his chin.
His whiskers began to flap in the wind.
He opened his eyes and saw a tree branch break off.
The wind was strong.
It had to be.
The wind was driving itself across the lake.
Like some kind of invisible speedboat, there was a noticeable dip in the water.
Waves shooting up on both sides.
It grew deeper.
Lots of ground.
Enough ground for millions of people to pass safely through.
When there isn’t a WAY, God CREATES one.
He literally moved thousands of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water out of the way. He made it stand on its side. A wall on both flanks.
Do you know how impossible this is? Go ahead and try it. Next time you are at the neighborhood pool…
Grab a stick.
Walk to the five-foot end.
Lift your stick up.
And see if you can split the water.
With the exception of a massive cannonball (which would only last for a second), it’s impossible!
And that cannonball only removes the water in one area for one tenth of a second.
God moved the water over the entire red sea long enough for his people to cross!
Amazing. When there isn’t a way, God creates one!
He did the same for our route to heaven! There wasn’t a way.
Not trying hard.
Not doing your best.
Not getting as close to perfect as you can.
None of that worked.
None of that worked to make a path through the big, old vast, dark, deadly sea of guilt.
Our path to heaven was unpassable.
Death had us cornered.
It was going to slaughter us.
So…God pushed back our sins.
He removed our guilt.
He eliminated our shame.
He provided a way when there wasn’t one.
More than providing the way…
He WAS the way.
He is the Way to eternal life.
If he did that for the impossible sea of your sin,
He’ll provide a way through whatever you’re going through.
When there isn’t a WAY, God creates ONE.
But that’s not all…
III. The Battle
The Israelites began to pass through.
Horses, donkey, camels, sheep and whatever else they had.
While they passed, they were treated to a private aquarium tour of the Red Sea.
Check out that school of lionfish.
There’s a giant moray eel at under the rock.
And is that the bluefin? I had one of those at a seafood restaurant once.
As the Israelites were well on their way.
God removed the fire barrier.
The Egyptians took in a moment of shock.
They were in chariots.
The chariots could move faster.
They began to close in on the Israelites.
Pharaoh at the helm.
A grin of evil.
He was about to get his revenge.
His chariot hit something.
The wheels began to wobble.
Had his axle bent?
His chariot crashed into another officers.
He looked around to see the other chariots suffering the same fate.
One of the soldiers shouted, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them!” (V.25)
But before they could leave, Moses took up his position on the opposite side of the sea.
All the Israelites were behind.
All of the God’s people were safe.
Moses raised his staff.
Terror hit the face of Pharaoh.
The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. (v.28)
God BATTLES for his people.
This is still true.
God battled for his people.
God battles for his people.
God is battling for you.
But he rose.
And He hasn’t left you alone.
He is there.
Fighting for you
Even if it’s in unexpected ways…
We mentioned earlier that Pharaoh thought he had trapped the Israelites.
He noticed that they went down in the Red Sea basin and set themselves up for destruction.
The brilliant tactician that he was Pharoah’s army descended for an easy victory.
Pharaoh thought this was such a good trap.
And it was!
Just not his trap.
Back track with me.
The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion…And he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army.” (v.3-4)
God had set the trap.
This was always his plan.
Despite what Pharaoh thought, he could not trap God.
Because no one can trap God.
No one can trap God.
And no one can trap God’s people.
Because God is fighting for his people.
And you are his people.
And God is fighting for you.
And you aren’t trapped.
You’ve are never trapped
Because you’ve always got God.
It was the kind of spectacle you or I are not likely to see in our lifetimes. For 430 years, the Israelite people had lived in Egypt, grown into a nation and gone from being welcome saviors of the land to oppressed slaves. For reference, that’s longer than the United States has existed by almost 200 years.
And now, God had decided it was time to leave. He had promised, long ago, that Abraham’s children would receive the land of Canaan, and the time was right to begin that process. As we’ve seen, Pharaoh was unwilling to lose his labor force, and so God sent plague after plague of devastating impact to strong arm Pharaoh into changing his mind.
You or I might have been convinced at the start. Even before the plagues when Moses did the miracles of the staff to snake and his leprous hand, we might’ve been, “Okay you’re clearly sent by a higher power, you can go.” But not the Pharaoh. Signs and wonders and nine plagues of him and his people suffering, and he still would not relent. It may seem excessive, but if you look throughout scripture this is exactly how God operates. Sometimes God is subtle in orchestrating our lives. But when God wants to make a point, he makes sure that he does something in a way that the only possible explanation is that God did it.
And so last week we looked at the tenth and final plague. So utterly specific that it could have been nothing other than God’s power. The firstborn of every human and animal, only the firstborn, was struck dead. Except the houses that carried out God’s instructions and sacrificed the lamb for the house and painted the doorframe with the blood. In those households, the firstborn lived. There is no natural explanation for what happened that night. It could only be God.
And it was both God’s judgment against the Egyptians, against Pharaoh himself and it was God’s mercy on the Israelites who believed his directions. The end result: Pharaoh said, go. So a nation of people packed up their stuff and left. Now, leaving turned out to not be quite as easy as that, which we’ll see in weeks to come, but for right now, in the midst of this life-changing event, God has a message for the people that he speaks through Moses:
Remember this day when you came out of Egypt, where you were slaves. For by the strength of his hand the LORD brought you out from there. Nothing with leaven may be eaten. 4Today, in the month of Abib, you are leaving. 5So when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites—the land he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to perform this ceremony during this month: 6Seven days you must eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there is to be a festival to the LORD. 7Unleavened bread must be eaten throughout the seven days. No leavened bread is to be seen among you. No yeast is to be seen among you, anywhere in your entire territory. 8On that day you are to explain this to your son, “It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.” 9This will serve as a sign for you on your wrist and a reminder on your forehead so that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a mighty hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 10You must keep this regulation at its appointed time from year to year.
This is the first of two major commands we’re going to look at today, and the first of many that God would give the Israelites in the days ahead. They were to remember this day by celebrating it for a week every year. For one week they were to make bread without leaven in it to remind them of this time, and then at the end of the week they were to have a special feast that would re-enact what had taken place this past night. If God had not explained we might pause to ask, “Why?” Surely what they’d just been through was something so impressive they’d remember it all their lives, right? Well, we’ll get to that.
But God says, this is to be a sign, a reminder, a remembrance for you, something that reminds you with more than just your memories, it works in your hands and in your mind, it’s a physical thing you do that drives remembrance so that even if you do forget for a while what this was like, when you go to do these things out of tradition you are reminded of what they mean. And not only you but someday your children who weren’t there so you can impress upon them just how powerful the Lord your God truly is and how important it is to remember that he alone saved us.
In a similar way, God commands another remembrance in the next section:
11When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites—just as he swore to you and to your fathers—and gives it to you, 12then you must dedicate the firstborn of every mother to the LORD. Every firstborn of your livestock, the ones that are males, will belong to the LORD. 13Every firstborn donkey you are to redeem with a lamb. But if you do not want to redeem it, then you are to break its neck. However, you must redeem all the firstborn among your sons.
14In the future, when your son asks you, “What is this about?” you will say to him, “By the strength of his hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, where we were slaves. 15When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD the firstborn of every mother, the males, but I redeem every firstborn of my sons.” 16It will serve as a sign on your wrist and a symbol on your forehead. For by the strength of his hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.
In a very real way that evening, God spared the life of every one of their firstborns. And so, God said that in the future all the firstborns must be dedicated to the Lord. For some this meant a sacrifice. For some, it meant a sacrifice on their behalf. Either way, it was another, constant reminder just like the yearly festival. When it was done it sparked memory of that fateful night. It was a sign by doing and remembering of what the Lord did for them. And when it was done and the children asked why, it again became a moment of teaching to impress upon them the power of the Lord God who saved them.
So while we’re here then, let’s circle back to the question of why. Wouldn’t you think something so life-defining as what they’d been through that night would stick with them? That there could never again be a question of who was God and that they needed to absolutely obey him? That they would be forever grateful for his grace and mercy in freeing them and saving them from the angel of death that night?
Yeah. You’d think so.
But perhaps more than anything, the story of the nation of Israel as a whole exists as a cautionary tale for us of how quickly and easily God can be forgotten, or ignored, or misshapen by poor teaching and bad memory. As the story of Exodus continues, we’ll see how quickly these people lose their gratitude and forget their faith in God or forget their fear of God.
And that’s to say nothing of their children after them.
All this was WITH the benefit of the remembrances God established. And it wasn’t just these, he had more to come later. But so many forgot so quickly. So many lost faith so quickly. How? Why?
Perhaps before we dive into the how and why we should first ask ourselves: do we really have any cause to look down on these people for forgetting? Do we do any better remembering what God has done for us?
Look back and ask yourself: Who is it who has gotten you through all the troubles in your life so far? Who is it that bled and died in your place so that you could be spared eternal suffering? Who rose from the dead to show you that your sins are truly forgiven forever? Who took a heart that hated God and turned it into a heart that loves him, that wants to serve him? And so who is it that you owe your life to?
It’s all the Lord. It’s all God. He’s saved you in a way far more profound than leading you out of a nation that used you as a slave. He has watched over you, cared for you, loved you and in his power brought you to this day in faith.
So… why do we forget him so quickly? Why when the next trouble strikes do we panic? Do we tremble? Do we do like we’ll see the Israelites next week and cry out in fear? Or if you’re like me freeze in anxiety? Or do we hold fast to God’s saving love, knowing that we are built on a rock that can weather any storm? And when those around us, especially our children, struggle… what do we use to comfort, support and build them up? Is it world wisdom and platitudes… or the same certain truths of God’s love?
I’m going to guess you don’t bat 1000 on this one. In fact, I’m going to guess that our reaction in the moment of troubles is to forget God more often than not. This brings us back to the most important question. After everything God has done for us: why? Why do we forget?
My friends, because faith in God is not like any other fact you learned in school or knowledge about a book you read long ago. I still remember basic math skills, and I still remember my brother’s birthday, and I still remember the plot of Hamlet, even without using those things day to day. But faith in God is different.
Your faith, your trust in God to save you is something special that God gives you through the Holy Spirit. It is a new creation planted in your heart. But it exists in a hostile environment. The old you, that hated God, is still there. And every day it’s there clawing away at that faith trying to destroy it. That new self, that trust, faith, and knowledge of God needs daily support to stay strong and it doesn’t need it from you, it needs support from the same place it came from: from God.
It is God’s promise that in his Word and in his sacraments we are fed, we are nourished and we are connected to his power in a way that keeps our faith alive and strong. And the sacraments are another kind of remembrance God has given us, one directly connected to his power that also engages the senses in ways scripture does not. But staying connected to God’s Word doesn’t HAVE to mean that we are only reading and studying our Bibles. We absolutely SHOULD, don’t think I’m saying otherwise, but it doesn’t have to be limited to JUST that. God’s word is anything that conveys to us the saving truth that we are sinners who need a savior, and that God provided that savior in Jesus Christ.
A song can remind you of that. A painting can remind you of that. A cross on the wall can remind you of that. Lights on a Christmas tree, lilies at Easter, anything you choose can remind you of that and bring those truths back to the forefront of your mind. And at the same time, can provide moments to teach the next generation why.
Our own worship space is filled with them. There are reasons behind almost everything in our setup, from the altar, to the pulpit, to the symbols, the banners, to the way the Pastor doesn’t step up to the altar at the start of the service. It’s all carefully designed remembrances so we remember our God, remember Jesus and have the opportunity to teach when someone says, “Why do we do this?”
Friends, my simple truth, my simple call to action this week is this: Remember the Lord in many ways. Look around your life and ask yourself: What have I put in place in my life to remind myself regularly of my God’s love for me? Of what he has done for me? Of what he continues to do for me daily? Do I use the remembrances I have? And more importantly: what more remembrances can I establish so I never forget, and so my children never forget exactly what God and his salvation mean for us all?
Ultimately, let those remembrances drive you back to his Word, to study, learn, and grow your faith. God has done and continues to do amazing things for you. There is an enemy within that wants you to forget these things. Give yourself every advantage every day to remember, to connect to the Word, to build your faith constantly so that you never forget.
Hezekiah dipped another cloth into the water bowl.
As he swished it around, he watched as the clear liquid dissipated into a deep red.
A dark red.
A shiver went down his spine.
Let’s hope this is this only blood spilt at this house tonight.
Two weeks ago, they had gotten the news. God would be performing one final plague in Egypt. This plague would be worse than all the other plagues.
Worse than the bloody river.
Worse than the frogs and the bugs.
Worse than the dead cows, the painful boils, and the powerful hailstorm.
Worse than the three days of darkness.
Someone wants to say goodnight to you!
It was his wife. In her arms, their son.
“Papa!” He said with a big grin on his face.
Hezekiah smiled back as he gave him a big, bear hug.
Wow, buddy. You’re squeezing me so tight. Have you been working out?
Yes. I can’t wait to get my muscles big enough to move bricks like you do.
This was the reason that he was cleaning the bloody rag.
God had said, “About midnight I will go throughout Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt will die.” (Exodus 11:4)
It was hard to fathom.
Nahum was his pride.
He had his mother’s eyes and Hezekiah’s nose.
His mother’s smile and Hezekiah’s chin.
His mother’s gentleness and Hezekiah’s stubbornness.
He loved playing peekaboo.
He loved playing outside.
He loved making messes and refusing to clean them up.
Each day, Hezekiah slaved all day, in the hot sun, making bricks without pay for Pharaoh…
But when he came home…
And Nahum showed him strip of papyrus with an unrecognizable figure on it that Nahum pointed to and proudly proclaimed, “Daddy!”
It was worth it.
Hezekiah loved his son.
He was willing to do anything to save him.
No matter HOW crazy.
God had said, “Take a lamb…an unblemished year old male lamb…slaughter it…take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts.” (Exodus 12)
It hadn’t been easy.
The lamb was a good lamb.
A perfect lamb.
Hezekiah hated to slaughter it.
It was a mess.
Then, to take the blood and paint it on the door frames of the house.
As if some kind of horrific event had occurred within…
But it hadn’t.
And it wouldn’t.
God had said, “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” (12:13)
It was as if the lamb had always had this purpose.
Since the time that bought it down at the marketplace a year earlier.
This lamb was never to be a meal.
But a substitute.
Tears streamed down his wife’s cheeks.
Do you think everything will be ok?
Do you think he’ll be ok?
Hezekiah gave her a kiss on the cheek. It took all he could muster to sound confident:
We’ve done all that we can.
We obeyed God.
Now it is in God’s hands.
I. God’s Judgment in Passover
The Passover is the climax of the plague. It is both a firm reminder of God’s seriousness against sin and an His incredible mercy. Before we finish the account, three lessons to take home.
God’s JUDGMENT is inclusive.
Inclusive is a nice thing.
It’s good to be inclusive of your friends to your BBQ.
It’s good for a workplace to be inclusive in hiring practices.
It’s good for a school place to be inclusive in teaching kids from a variety of social backgrounds.
It’s good for the playground when every kid gets recruited to play on a kick ball team.
God is ALSO inclusive…
With his judgments.
God said, “I will go out in Egypt and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill.” (11:4-5)
Again God said, “I will strike all the firstborn it the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the LORD.” (12:12)
Then, God did, “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…” (12:29)
God brought judgment on Pharaoh.
And the officials.
And the assistants to the officials.
And the assistants to the assistants to the officials.
And the assistants to the assistants to the assistants to the officials.
God brought judgment on all the people.
And God will bring judgment on all people.
Psalm 96:13a says this, “God will judge the world in righteousness.”
Please don’t be foolish enough to think that you aren’t included in “the world.” Because it is so easy to think that way.
That the “world” means that Middle Eastern country over there.
That God will judge those atrocities in Asia.
That God will judge massacres south of the border.
But not you.
That God will judge that immoral celebrity.
That God will judge that phony politician.
That God will judge everyone in that other political party.
But not you.
That God will judge that guy on your Facebook feed.
That God will judge that gal at work.
That God will bring judgment to 101 Pine Street and 105 Pine Street, but skip 103 Pine street.
Because you live there.
No, God’s judgment is inclusive.
He will judge all.
That includes YOU.
Disobedience is DEADLY.
The word God uses here to describe his reaction to disobedience is STRIKE DOWN
That is a violent word, isn’t it?
It invokes anger.
It invokes cruelty.
It invokes decisive, destructive action.
For example, there was a mosquito who landed on my arm this past week.
He lifted up his blood sucking nose.
He inserted it into my skin.
So... STRIKE DOWN.
Pharaoh had been disobeying God for months.
The other Egyptians had joined them in his disobedience.
And anyone who disobeyed God and didn’t paint the lamb’s blood on the door would find out…
Disobedience is deadly.
It still is.
If you disobey God and speak harshly to your wife, it will kill your romance.
If you disobey God and send flirty text messages to the guy you aren’t married to, it will kill your marriage.
If you disobey God and continue in pornography, it will kill your ability to be intimate.
If you disobey God and continue your racism, it will kill community.
If you disobey God and drink too much, you’ll kill your friendships.
If you disobey God and pass on gossip, you’ll kill your reputation.
If you disobey God and hold onto pride, you’ll kill other’s desire for church.
If you disobey God and avoid time in God’s Word, you’ll kill your faith.
If you disobey God long enough…
God’s judgment will come.
And your relationship with God will be dead.
II. God’s Mercy in Passover
If disobedience brings death, then obedience must bring life… Right?
Just not YOUR obedience.
Around 10 pm the boy had fallen asleep.
For the next hour, Hezekiah had comforted his crying wife.
About midnight she passed out, exhausted.
But Hezekiah stayed awake.
4 am – Would God really be merciful to sinful him?
5 am – Would the blood of the lamb really work?
Hezekiah kept running that very thought through his mind.
To be fair, he wasn’t a genocidal Pharaoh, but he wasn’t perfect either.
He drank too much.
He was rough to his wife.
He didn’t worship God like he should.
He was too busy working to be with his son.
He had been disobedient before.
One night of obedience wasn’t going to make up for those sins.
But then again…
This night wasn’t so much about his obedience.
It was about God’s mercy.
He closed his eyes and prayed.
Please LORD, have mercy.
Suddenly, a warmth hit his cheeks.
He opens his eyes to see subtle rays of light coming through the window.
It was morning!
He looked over at his son.
His chest was moving up and down.
His nostrils were flaring.
His cheeks were flush.
He was alive.
God had had mercy on him.
And God has had mercy on you.
Our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, namely, Christ! (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Because what was the Passover?
The blood of an unblemished male lamb on the frame of the door moved God’s wrath to pass over that home.
Jesus was called the Lamb of God.
Jesus was without blemish.
Jesus was a male.
Jesus shed his blood on the frame of a cross.
And…God’s wrath has passed over you!
Jesus is our PASSOVER LAMB.
Jesus obeyed God perfectly.
He obeyed God by going to the cross.
He obeyed by becoming a sacrifice.
And his obedience brings life.
His sacrifice brings life.
Because of Jesus, you will live.
And as it said in that passage, this has already happened!
The sacrifice has already happened.
There’s no longer any kind of sacrifice left for you to make.
Which is freeing.
One of the reasons that guilt can be so difficult for humans to overcome is that sin has a way of imprinting itself onto our history.
Sometimes I can look back at some of my worst sins, I can so clearly see the event.
Maybe you can too?
We can see the faces of those that I hurt.
We can see the aftermath and tension.
We can see myself raising my voice, being lazy, being a jerk…
But…that’s not what God sees.
Because of Jesus, God sees something differently.
Where you see yourself raising your voice, God sees Jesus’ blood.
Where you see your sexual impurity, God sees Jesus’ blood.
Where you see the nasty messages you’ve type on Facebook, God sees Jesus’ blood.
See his blood too.
Trust in Jesus’ blood.
Because the blood of the Lamb means LIFE!
Later on that morning, Hezekiah and the Israelites received news.
Pharaoh was releasing them.
Not just letting them worship for a few days, but releasing them forever!
He hadn’t listened to God.
He hadn’t covered his doorframes with the blood of a lamb.
He hadn’t eaten breakfast with his son that morning.
Because he had died.
But the result was that the Israelites were free.
No longer slaves.
No longer stuck in Egypt.
The same is true for you.
Guilt no longer controls you.
Sin no longer controls you.
Shame no longer controls you.
Your Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.
You are free.
We are in a sermon series on the Exodus. Exodus is a true story about slavery. The people of Israel had been forcibly enslaved by the King of Egypt called a Pharaoh. This Pharaoh forced them to make bricks out of straw in the hot desert sun.
God began to send plagues (miraculous, terrifying miracles) against the land to get Pharaoh to set his people free. He turned the water of the Nile into blood, covered the land in frogs, gnats, and flies. He struck the livestock with death, the people with boils, and the crops with the worst hailstorm in Egyptian history.
Pharaoh didn’t let them go.
I guess what I’m saying is…
There was not a Fourth of July in Exodus 10.
(And not just because “July” wasn’t a recognized month until the Julian Calendar in 46 B.C.)
The people weren’t free.
They remained slaves.
They couldn’t go on vacation to the lake.
They couldn’t celebrate with fireworks at 11pm.
They couldn’t take an extra-long lunch break to get back to their apartment and check that the “Red, White, and Blue” jello in the fridge was solidifying appropriately.
The people didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July.
Nor any Freedom type holiday.
Because they weren’t free.
I. Freedom for the Future
The Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.” (10:1-2)
We talked about that hardening last time. God had asked Pharaoh to release the captives seven times, but Pharaoh had hardened his heart and refused to listen. In response, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after the 6th plague of boils in hopes that Pharaoh might soften his heart after the 7th plague of hail.
But another reason that God hardened Pharaoh’s already hardened heart was that he might soften the hearts of others: The Egyptian officials, the Egyptian slave driers, the Egyptian everyday citizens.
And since these events were written down in Scripture, another reason God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was YOU. He loved you and wanted to warn you of whatever kind of hardness you were in danger of.
But Chapter ten reveals another audience for these plagues.
Teaching kids about the LORD teaches them FREEDOM.
There’s a push occurring around classroom to relook at the way that we teach United States history.
To note that George Washington did help remove oppression, but that he also owned slaves.
To note that the first presidential election occurred in 1789, but not everyone was free to vote.
To note that the Emancipation Proclamation occurred in 1865, but not every slave knew about it until 1867.
I’m not a sociological expert on how to teach history.
I don’t fancy myself a moral authority on who should be considered a hero or not.
I do know that historical heroes are sinful because they are human.
Even American heroes are sinful because they are human.
If you want to teach your kids about freedom, worry less about which sinful figures to teach about.
Worry about that you teach them about the one who is FREE from sin.
Because if you teach your kids about the LORD, you teach about …
A God with phenomenal, cosmic, eternal power.
A God who cares deeply about them.
A God who will stop at nothing to free his people.
A God who will keep coming and keep coming and keep coming.
A God who will come to earth and give himself to the slavery of death to set his people free.
A God who will throw off those shackles three days later.
When your kids know God, they know true freedom.
I remember a mom who once told me that she was driving with her toddler in heavy traffic. Suddenly, a heavy storm hit. The kind of storm that was blinding. She had to pull to the side of I-540 to avoid an accident.
She must have sounded a bit scared while she was doing so, because from the back car seat her son asked, “Mommy, are you alright?”
“Yes, son. I’m just a bit scared about the storm.” She replied.
To which the young man calmly replied, “Don’t be. God will take of us.”
That kid was free.
Free from nervousness.
Free from fear.
Free from anxiety.
Free from guilt.
Free from doubt.
Because he knew about his FREEDOM loving God.
II. Locusts & Freedom
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Let my people go…If you refuse to let them go I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow.” (v.3-4)
Do you know what a locust is? It is a large, brown grasshopper with the power of flight. (It’s like the superhero of bugs). They love to feast on plants. Usually, it’s not a big deal. They are solitary. But from time to time there is a population explosion, and the locusts migrate in vast swarms to cause extensive damage.
It’s the XL Pizza principle.
If you buy one for yourself, there’s plenty left over.
If you buy one for a group of 5, it’s gone in a matter of minutes.
God didn’t plan on sending just one locust to Egypt.
Nor did he plan on a group of five.
Nor a militia of 100.
God said, “The locusts will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians!” (v.5-6)
Pharaoh’s officials have been through this before.
They had itched and scratched with the gnats.
They had swatted and hit with the flies.
They had had to get replacement brooms for their homes because of all the frogs guts on the former brooms.
One of them was still reeling from their garden that was destroyed by hail.
Another was wearing long sleeves to cover the scars from the boils.
A third was going through grief counseling over the loss of her pet Betsy the cow.
They told Pharaoh, “Let them go! Egypt is ruined. At least if these people are gone, we’ll catch a break and be able to begin rebuilding.” (v.7)
Pharaoh said, “Go, worship the LORD your God, but tell me who will be going.” (v.8)
All of us?
How dare you!?!
You wicked evil people with your wicked evil God.
You just want your “Freedom?”
And you’ll use it to “worship your God.”
But what about me!?!
I’ll be without a slave force…
And lose wealth.
And go down in the annals of history as the guy that bent his will to some measly “LORD.”
Only the men go.
Or none of you go.
So…Moses decided to go.
He stretched out his staff over Egypt and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land…. By morning the wind had brought locusts that invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. (v.13-14)
In every field.
In every garden.
On every tree.
On every bush.
On ever remaining blade of grass.
God sent an army of locusts to devour every inch of greenery in every part of Egypt.
God wants FREEDOM for ALL his people.
It’s still true! When he came to earth, he died for all people.
When he rose from the dead, he rose for all people.
When he spoke to his disciples, he told them to go and tell this message to ALL people.
First that’s for you.
No matter who you are.
No matter how you’ve been enslaved.
No matter what has been attacking your soul.
Jesus died to set you free!
But that’s also true for other.
Later today, I wonder if you won’t see some people who don’t know about freedom from guilt.
People who are unaware of freedom from sin.
People who have never heard of the freedom that Jesus gives.
In Exodus, God unleashed an army of locusts.
Nowadays, God unleashed another army.
An army of believers.
Let’s take his Gospel to every part of Raleigh.
Every part of Durham
Every part of the triangle.
To the rich parts.
To the poor parts.
To the east parts.
To the west parts.
To the north parts.
To the south parts.
To the parts with Trump hats.
To the parts with BLM bumper stickers.
To the parts with American flags.
To the parts with Mexican flags.
To the parts with Canadian flags.
To the parts with rainbow flags.
To all people.
God is calling us to bring the Gospel to all people.
Because God wants to set all people FREE!
III. Darkness and Freedom
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the Israelites go. (v.20)
Moses stretched out his hand towards the sky and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. (v.22-23)
We’re talking real total darkness.
As in nobody could go light a lantern…
Because it got so dark so quickly…
They weren’t able to navigate in the dark to find a candle and a light!
Nothing but darkness.
And no way out.
And just your thoughts.
Darkness that even Pharaoh couldn’t get out of.
Sounds kinda like slavery.
When it was over, Pharaoh summoned Moses and said,
“Go, worship the LORD. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” (v.24)
That’s the only way I know you’re coming back.
We need collateral.
Moses shook his head, “Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD. (v.25-27)
What do you think we are going to use our freedom to do?
We aren’t going to play disc golf.
We aren’t going to the pool.
We’re not having a BBQ.
We are going to worship God.
Because God is the one who freed us.
God’s people use freedom to WORSHIP God.
Friends, our God has set us free!
He set us free from guilt.
He set us free from sin.
He set us free from shame.
In fact, that was the very first thing that the people of Israel were going to do with their freedom.
We’ve been in COVID for a while.
It’s been kinda like slavery.
As you are experiencing more and more freedom, when are you going to worship?
After going to restaurants?
After kids birthday parties, the gym, and the community pool?
Remember – those things did not set you free.
Not from COVID.
And not from sin.
But worship is more than just being at church.
Thousands of years after the Exodus, one of Jesus’ disciples named Peter wrote this,
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil… (1 Peter 2:16)
This verse seems tailor-made for America, doesn’t it?
Cause we love our freedoms.
Freedom of Speech means I can call you a “jerk” on Facebook if I want.
It’s my body. I’m free to do what I want with it – even if the thing I want to do with it is something God calls evil.
It’s a free market. I’m free to use my money however I want. And I just want to use it on me.
We could go on.
But what God’s Word is saying is this.
Don’t call freedom what God calls evil.
Because evil is never free.
Evil always enslaves.
It always hurts.
It enslaves us in shame.
It leads to more sin.
Doing evil isn’t a sign that you’re free.
But a sign that you’re enslaved.
Live as free people… live as God’s slaves. (1 Peter 2:16)
What a strange thing to read about on July 4th.
What a strange thing to read in the middle of the Exodus.
Read it carefully.
It doesn’t say, “You ARE God’s slaves.”
It says, “Live as God’s slaves.”
Because we are free.
And what better way to live free,
Than to serve the God of freedom.
There is no better master than God.
God isn’t harsh; he is kind.
God isn’t hateful; he is loving.
God doesn’t whip us; he was whipped for us.
God doesn’t beat us; he was beat for us.
God didn’t make us do the hard work of our salvation; he slaved over it for us.
God chained himself to our sin, our guilt, our shame, and our death in order to free us to peace, hope, and life.
God wants his people to be free.
God wants those who are free to freely serve Him.
Because in serving Him, there is great freedom.
Praise God for freeing us. Praise God for freedom. Amen!