The Purpose of Community

 

Introduction

Ecclesiastes is a unique book.  Most think it was written by Solomon near the end of his life, and it’s a book of perspectives and of insights about the purpose of life.  It’s a book of depression as Solomon tries to find pleasure in this world, only to find that eternal pleasure in this temporary, human world is not possible.  Nothing gives him meaning, everything is like chasing after the wind.

Solomon pondered many questions from his own perspective, and Solomon’s thoughts and actions were not always based on God’s principles.  From Solomon’s laments, we learn from his mistakes so we don’t spend our lives chasing after the wind.  Here are some key verses that sum up this book –

      • Ecclesiastes 1:2, “’Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’”.
      • Ecclesiastes 1:18, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
      • Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
      • Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.'”
      • Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Two phrases, “vanity” and “under the sun,” are repeated often in Ecclesiastes. The word “vanity” (your version may say “meaningless”) is used to emphasize the temporary nature of worldly things.  In the end, all of our achievements and accomplishment will be left behind. And the phrase, “under the sun” occurs 28 times, and refers to our human world.  Everything under the sun is meaningless, the Preacher says.

Maybe the Preacher didn’t try everything, you may be thinking.  Solomon was the wisest and richest man who ever lived, and here is what he tried –

      • Scientific discovery (Ecc 1:10-11)
      • Wisdom and philosophy (Ecc 1:13-18)
      • Amusement / entertainment (Ecc 2:1)
      • Alcohol (Ecc 2:3)
      • Architecture (Ecc 2:4)
      • Property (Ecc 2:7-8)
      • Luxury (Ecc 2:8).
      • Materialism (Ecc 2:19-20)
      • And even different moral codes (Ecc chapters 8-9).

Everything was meaningless, a temporary diversion.  Without God, nothing had purpose or longevity.  The remaining chapters 8-12 of Ecclesiastes discuss the conclusion about how a worthwhile life should be lived.  Without God, there is no truth.  Without God, there is no meaning to life.  There are many evils in this world, and even the best of man’s achievements are worth nothing when compared to eternity.  So what should we do?

      • Acknowledge God from our youth (Ecc 12:1)
      • Follow God’s will (Ecc 12:13-14).

Slide4For all of the vanities described in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the answer is Christ.  Here are some examples –

Before After
Ecc 3:17 God judges the righteous and the wicked, 2 Cor 5:21 Only those who are in Christ are judged righteous.
Ecc 3:11 God has placed the desire for eternity in our hearts. John 3:16 God has provided the Way to eternal life through Christ.
Ecc 5:10 Striving after wealth is vanity and does not satisfy. Mark 8:36 if we could gain the whole world, what good is it if we do not have Christ and lose our souls.

Ultimately, every disappointment and vanity described in Ecclesiastes has its solution in Christ, the wisdom of God and the only true meaning to be found in life.

The Greeks gave this book the name ‘Ekklesiastes’ which means “assembly.” In essence, the writings of this book are based on community, an assembly of people.  In the New Testament, this same word is used to mean “church.”  The writings in this book are meant to teach and preach to the church, to teach us how to live in our community, and we’ll spend the rest of today’s lesson in Chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes and what it means to be in a community.

Our worldly culture is weird when it comes to history.  On one hand, we are pulling down statues left and right.  The original excuse may have had racial overtones, but now we are pulling down statues of Abraham Lincoln and the Virgin Mary.  Seems there are many people that want to eliminate the past and pretend it never existed.  At the same time, Ancestory.com and 23AndMe.com have surged in popularity, DNA testing is more available than ever before.  People want to know their heritage, their background, and their cultural makeup.  They want to know who they really are.

Slide6.JPG

And then we are weird when it comes to being categorized.  Have you taken a personality test like Myer’s Briggs or Strengths Finders?  We want to know our strengths and our uniqueness and how we best connect with others.

Whether it is ancestry or personality, people want to know who they are.  Our worldly culture begins the exploration of self-discovery by starting with ourselves.  That seems natural.  If we want to know ourselves, we should study ourselves, right?

But the Bible begins the exploration of self-discovery by starting not with us, but with God.  And the better we know and understand God, the more we understand who God made us to be.  And much of the purpose that God has for us can be found in the community God has placed us, to bloom where we are planted.

 

God in Community

What is the purpose for community?  It’s obviously related to people, but not all people are, well, people persons.  Some are extroverts or naturally ‘social butterflies’ or those who are exuberant extroverts.  Others are more introverted, preferring quiet time or very small groups.  Is one better than the other?

Whether extrovert or introvert, our personality type does not depend on community.  If community determined who we are, then how we relate to our community would either boost our pride or deepen our despair, based on wherever we fell on the personality spectrum.

The purpose for community is not some sort of competition that God has set before us.  Community is his demonstration to us on how to experience more of Him and how we are to experience the life we were meant to live.  Our ideal community doesn’t have to be large or small or deep or wide or every day or twice a week.  There’s no formula except the book of Hebrews says it ought to be frequently.  Hebrews 10:24-25,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We mentioned earlier that the Greek root word for Ecclesiastes means “assembly or “church.”  What “Ecclesiastes” doesn’t mean is music.  Or tithes.  Or a sermon.  Or even a mid-week bible study.  What makes church “church,” our “ecclesiates,” is the people, the gathering of the body of Christ, to make a covenant with one another, and meet together frequently.

Meeting together as a church and maintaining a level of biblical community is for our soul.  But perhaps the greatest of all reasons is that God models community, and we are made in His image.  Community helps reveal who God is.  God exists in community, and He has done so for eternity.  Even before time, space, and matter were created, God existed as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God exists as one in three, and three in one.

In other words, if God exists in community Himself, and if we are designed in His image, this means that God wired the need for community deep within our souls.

When we neglect community, we become less of what God designed us to be.  To be made in the image of a triune God means fundamentally to be in community.  Jesus Himself surrounded Himself with the larger community of His twelve disciples and we would be foolish to think that fullness of life can happen without the Christian community.

 

Purpose in Community

Since creation started with a triune God who exists in community past, present and future, and since God created us in His image and all of life, this means the purpose of community is woven throughout the very purpose of our lives.  To really live, and to really experience the life God designed us to have, we weave our lives into the lives of others, reflecting the perfect, good, and communal nature of God Himself.  Let’s look at Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 for the purpose of this community –

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.   For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Three ideas here –

  • When we fall, community can pull us up

King Solomon also wrote in Proverbs 24:16,

“For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”

In the times of the Old Testament, the number seven represented the number of completion.  Solomon is saying that the righteous person falls completely, the righteous person falls frequently.  But righteousness is not determined by whether we fall, but what we do after.  We get up, we rise again.

So how can a righteous person get up and rise again after falling?  Ecclesiastes 4 says it is by living in a community where others can help them back onto their feet.

Living life in community is a safeguard from calamity, from being broken by our circumstances or by our own sin. The Bible does not promise that living in community means that we will not stumble or fall; in fact, we know that everyone stumbles and falls at some time, and Christians are not spared.  But living in a community will provide help from others around us.  If we cannot help ourselves, others can.

  • When you are spiritually cold, community can warm you up.

Ecclesiastes 4:11 says, “Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?”

Did you know over 600 people in the US die from hypothermia each year.  Stuck in the cold, the body begins to shut down.  Decades ago, might have been in the early 1800’s when I was in the Boy Scouts – when they were still the Boy Scouts – I remember taking my First Air merit badge courses.  In mild hypothermia, one can warm themselves back up.  But as hypothermia progresses, the body loses it’s ability to warm itself.  One of the solutions was to crawl into a sleeping bag with another person and use the heat of somebody else.

Slide13.JPG

When we face the coldness of life through pain or grief or hardship, it is a temptation to isolate.  We think that we do not want to be a burden to other people.  Somebody offers to help, and we say no.

But when we reverse the roles, and somebody else is in pain, we offer to help.  And then we’re disappointed when they don’t take us up on our offer.  As a community, we want to help.  It’s receiving help we often struggle with.  And if we’re not helping one another, we become indifferent.  Callous.  Even cold.

It is easy to slip into a pattern of callousness towards the person of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God when we are not a community of helping hands.  Hebrews 3:13 says –

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

I’ve always loved that line, because it is always called “Today.”  The key is that the people of God and the Word of God move and act together in encouragement.  We stay warm when we are together; we grow cold when we keep each other distant.

  • When you are weak, community can strengthen you.

Next, our scripture says, “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.”  A third truth about the purpose of community is that in our weakness, community will make us strong.  We may try to go it alone, but going it alone isn’t a sign of strength.  It’s a sign of weakness.

Our pride hides our own weakness from us and deludes us with overconfidence in our own abilities.  This is the nature of sin in our lives: underestimating our weaknesses, overestimating our strengths.  And the solution isn’t, “Memorize more Scripture!” Even though that is important.  The solution isn’t, “Pray more!” or “Get more sleep!” or “Listen to more sermons!”  Although all those things are beneficial, but alone, we are still weak.  We have strength in community.

I think it’s because when we live in community and get to know one another, others will truly see us, know us, and can help us where we need it most.  Darkness of sin loses its hold over us.  When we live in community, things that are hidden are brought into the light, and it cleans us up.

Community can pull us up when we fall; it can warm us up when we grow spiritually cold, and it strengthens us against the power of sin.

 

Three in Community

Then the last phrase in our scripture always seems peculiar to me.  It begins with “Two are better than one” and then describes what you do better when there is a second person.  But then, the end of verse 12 says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

Maybe it’s a typo.  Maybe the author meant to say, “A twofold cord is not quickly broken?”  Or maybe it is because in a biblical community, there are never only two parties involved, but three.  God is also present.

Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, 18:20 –

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Slide16.JPG

There are always three parties involved in the body of Christ: you, your community, and God.  If it is your spouse and you, your cord is not quickly broken with God in the middle.  If it is an accountability partner and you, your cord is not quickly broken with God in the middle.  If it is your church community, Bible study class, small group and you, your cord is not quickly broken with God in the middle.

In a biblical community, there are always three parties at work. The Apostle Paul gives us a picture of how this works in 1 Corinthians 12 –

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Paul writes that God has given each of us unique passions and abilities so that we work with one another, minister to one another, and be nourished by one another.

If we cut ourselves off from the community of the church, we are fundamentally cutting ourselves off from the primary method God uses to minister to us through others.  And it also means the reverse.  If we cut ourselves off from the community of the church, we are also cutting ourselves off from the main means through which God is trying to minister through us to others.

In other words, whenever we think we are reducing our threefold cord down to two strands, we actually reduce our threefold cord down to one strand. Because when we remove one strand from the equation (such as God or community), we actually lose both strands in the process. God ministers to us through community.

Biblical community, therefore, always happens in three.  Even in the Gospel, you see all three persons of the Godhead working together, ministering together, and accomplishing together. The Father planned our salvation, the Son accomplished our salvation, and the Spirit applies our salvation.  And now, we have access to the Father because of the Son and through the Spirit.

Truly, a threefold cord is not easily broken. It is modeled in our salvation and also in our community.

 

Conclusion

This year, 2020, is certainly one for the history books.  The impact on our lives has been staggering.  And the effects are almost entirely negative.  And quarantined, we feel isolated, depressed, angry.  We aren’t meant to live like this.  From the time of Adam and Eve until now, God has wanted us to be part of community.

Community is not our idea, it is God’s idea.  Christian community is simply sharing a common life in Christ.  It moves us beyond the self-interested isolation of private lives and beyond the superficial social contacts that pass for “Christian fellowship.”  The biblical ideal of community challenges us instead to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.

Slide19.JPG

We need each other.  We need to be connected to the body of Christ – not just for our own sake, but for the sake of others as well.  So that we can be a blessing to them, and so that they can be a blessing to us.  It is God’s plan for us, to live in community with one another.

Ecclesiastes offers Christians an opportunity to understand the emptiness and despair that those who do not know God grapple with. Those who do not know Christ are faced with a life that will ultimately end and become irrelevant.  If there is no salvation, and no God, then not only is there no point to life, but no purpose or direction to it, either. The world “under the sun,” apart from God, is frustrating, cruel, unfair, brief, and “utterly meaningless.”

But with Christ, life is but a shadow of the glories to come in a heaven that is only accessible through Him.  We need each other, so let us meet one another, talk to one another, encourage one another in our community, as long as it is called today.

Slide20.JPG

To God be the glory.

Deliverance for the Future

 

  • Introduction

Let’s start with our key scripture for today, Exodus 12:13 –

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; 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.

In today’s scripture, the Lord will do something so miraculous, so memorable, that the people of Israel could not help but pass it along to their children and their children’s children.  God did something so amazing we remember it today.

In many ways, our memories define us.  I crunched some numbers – that’s what I do, I’m an engineer – and I discovered it’s my birthday today.  I am exactly 21,275 days old today.  Thank you, thank you.  If you forgot to being me a present, you can leave cash in the offering plate over there at the end of class.

But how many days do I remember?  I’ve had so many good, blessed days, but they all blur together.  But momentous changes in my life, those I remember.  First day at my first engineering job in 1982.  Getting on my knee to ask my wife to marry me.  The day I asked for a divorce and confessed to God that I was a failure without Him.  Giving my life to Christ in Singapore in 1998.  Getting on me knee to ask my wife to forgive and to re-marry me.

Memories.  Light the corners of my mind.  Misty watercolor memories of the way we were.  Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind.  Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.

Stop it.  Now I’m going to have that stuck in my head.

Now in Exodus 12, the Israelites are preparing for a life-changing day, a generation-changing day.  There would be simultaneous rejoicing and devastation, feasting and mourning, joy and sorrow, and forgiveness and judgment.

Israel needed divine intervention to free them from the trap of slavery that they could not free themselves from.  Have you ever found yourself trapped by something?  A struggle that you cannot free yourself from?  I remember Baby Jessica in October 1987, trapped 22’ underground in that abandoned water well in Midland, Texas.  The nation was glued to their televisions for three days as rescue workers and mining experts worked to save her.  I remember more recently in June 2018 those boys in Thailand trapped in a cave for 18 days when the monsoon rains came and flooded the entrance.  These are physical traps, but traps can be emotional, they can be financial, they can be spiritual.

Slide3

Slide4.JPG

So, with so many traps keeping us in bondage, it’s no wonder we need deliverance just like the Israelites.  But God delivers us from life’s traps.  It’s a theme repeated throughout history, God delivers His people, and He still delivers you and me.  And 3500 years ago, the Israelites were trapped, in slavery, unable to free themselves from their bondage, and in need of a savior.

Slide5.JPG

Slide6.JPG

God has been delivering to the Egyptians one plague after another.  The word “plague” comes from a Latin word that meant to strike, to give a mighty blow or a wound.  The blows were mighty indeed – so far there had been 9 plagues the Lord sent against Pharaoh to free His people, and each time Pharaoh promised to free the Israelites but then hardened his heart.  Those plagues were frogs, gnats, darkness, um, halitosis, I think.  Really bad movies. I forget the whole list.  Actually, there was a purpose for each plague, each plague sending a message to the Egyptians that Jehovah God was more powerful than every god the Egyptians had.

In our Scripture today, we arrive at the life-changing day: the Passover.  Passover was the day that the Israelites were freed from bondage to the Egyptians.  It would serve as an Independence Day for the Israelites, changing the course of their history.  In fact, this day was so monumental that God ordered that the Passover would start their calendar year.  It was symbolic of the fresh start and fresh life that God was granting to the people of Israel (Exodus 12:1-2).

The Passover was the last of the Ten Plagues that God sent to the Egyptians. The purpose of the plagues was to display God’s authority.  The tenth plague was by far the deadliest and most devastating. God would sweep over the land of Egypt, visiting every home and taking the life of every firstborn male—unless the house was covered by the blood of an innocent lamb.

Now, God sends the 10th and final plague.  Let’s see how He prepares His people.

  • Exodus 12:1-5, New Beginning

Exodus 12:1-5 –

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.  If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.”

Slide8.JPG

God is creating a new beginning for His people to commemorate His deliverance.  This new beginning is the first month of the first year of a brand new calendar.  To remember this occasion, the head of each household will select a year-old, unblemished and perfect lamb to sacrifice on the tenth day of the month and slaughter it on the fourteenth day. The purpose of the lamb was to serve as a substitute. Instead of their first-born son passing away, the lamb would die in his place.

This was not the first time a lamb was sacrificed as a substitute for God’s people.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were literally covered by the sacrifice of an animal. It stood in their place and covered their nakedness. And on Mount Moriah, God provided a lamb as a substitute just as Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

However, God made it clear that not just any male lamb would do. He provided specific qualifications for this substitute: the lamb was to be one year old.  It was to be free from blemish or defect. These details are important.  The age of the lamb mattered because, at one year, a lamb is at the peak of its life in strength and energy.  And the perfection of the lamb mattered because it was a representation of the quality of its life.  We will see later in Deuteronomy 17:1 that a blemished animal was an abomination to God. In order to offer a perfect substitute, the Israelites were expected to find a perfect sacrifice.

Impending judgment hung over the head of all those residing in Egypt that evening. Death was on the doorstep of every house in Egypt. As the sun rolled beneath the horizon, all were in danger.  But God had provided His people a way to spare themselves and their households from the fate that all deserved. The Israelites had the opportunity to take God at His word and exercise their faith in Him.  They could find a substitute that would stand in the impending death in place of their firstborn sons.  Behind the cover of a young, perfect lamb, they would be shielded from the wrath of God and instead receive the mercy of God.

Just like you and me today.  When we are behind the cover of the lamb, we are shielded from the wrath of God and instead receive mercy.  How did Jesus meet this criteria?  I’m glad you asked.  1 Peter 1:18-19 says –

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

And John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29b the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with these words –

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Let’s not overlook the significance of the blood covering.  Leviticus 17:11 says,

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” 

Blood is life.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our advanced society still requires blood donations and haven’t developed artificial blood.  They’ve developed some stuff that can help refill the circulatory system in case of blood loss, but they haven’t developed red blood cells to carry oxygen, white blood cells for fighting diseases, plasma with proteins, platelets to stop blood loss, and so on.  Blood is life.

And 1 John 1 :7 says,

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 

Slide12.JPGIt is the blood of Jesus that saves us and gives us eternal life.  For the Israelites, it was only the covering of blood over the door that would save them and deliver them from their bondage.  For us, it is only the covering of the blood of Jesus that saves us from our sins and delivers us from our eternal punishment.

The sacrifice of the innocent to pay for the sins of the guilty.  The lamb was innocent of any wrongdoing.  Just as Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing.  It is we who do wrong.  Romans 3:23 says that all of us, you and me, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  And Romans 6:23 says that the punishment for our sins is death, but God’s gift to us is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  This concept of atonement begins here in Exodus 12, continues through Isaiah 53:5 that says that our redeemer was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  And all the way through the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds we have been healed.”

Slide13.JPG

Any other method of trying to provide for our own deliverance will fail.  We do not have the ability to save ourselves any more than the Israelites could save themselves from Pharaoh.  If we try, we will find we are sinners and must pay for our sins with eternal death.  Jesus, the son of God, paid that price on our behalf that we may live in Him.

And when we accept this sacrifice, we become new creations.  God delivers us from our eternal punishment, and we become adopted children of God.  2 Corinthians 5:17 –

” Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Slide14.JPG

God delivers us.

  • Exodus 12:6-11, Urgent Attitude

Once we have accepted Jesus, our lives take on a certain urgency.  Exodus 12:6-11 –

Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.  That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.  Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts.  Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.  This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

Like the instructions regarding the sacrificial animal and its blood, God gave the Israelites detailed instructions about the meal that would follow the Passover.  They were to eat unleavened bread.  This bread did not contain yeast, and they were not permitted time for the bread to rise. God wanted them to eat the meal with a belt on their waists and shoes on their feet so that they could leave in a hurry. It was a reminder to the people of Israel that they were to be ready to follow God. They could be called to make their exodus out of Egypt at any moment.

The symbolism of the yeast was also symbolic of what the people were to leave behind, to leave out of their lives.  To the Israelites, it represented the old traps of life, the bondage to Egypt.  To us, it represent sin.  God tells His people to make bread without yeast, unleavened bread, and later in Exodus 12:19 God says that whoever eats anything with yeast in it during this Passover will be cut off from Israel.  These are not baking instructions.  Jesus says in Matthew 16:11-12,

“How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?  But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 

Slide16.JPG

And 1 Corinthians 5:6-8,

“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 

So it’s definitely not a baking recipe, it’s a warning that a little sin will spread throughout the whole body.  We cannot underestimate the significance of sin in our lives and how offensive sin is to a most Holy God.  The smallest amount of sin in our lives will cause us to fry in the presence of Jehovah unless we are covered by the sacrificial, Passover blood.

Slide18.JPG

This dinner was true farm-to-table.  The Israelites roasted their lamb, made fresh bread, and accompanied the meal with bitter herbs that were also symbolic.  The bitter herbs were a reminder to them of their bitter enslavement in Egypt.  The herbs were also symbolic of the bitterness of sin.   In The Doctrine of Repentance, Puritan pastor and theologian Thomas Watson, said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

This highly symbolic Passover meal would endure for generations. Every year, when the Israelites would eat this meal, the smells and tastes would bring them back to the night that changed the history of their nation. They would recall the sacrificial lamb. They would be reminded of the bitterness of sin and slavery. They would remember the attitude of hastiness that they were to show when God called them. Ultimately, the Passover Meal would serve as a reminder of the deliverance they could experience.  It prompted them to maintain an attitude of sacrifice, a readiness to obey God, and a regard for sin as bitter.

And 1500 years later, Jesus added an extra layer of symbolism during the last Passover meal.  Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room, and they shared the Passover meal the night before His death.  They ate the lamb, and they ate unleavened bread.  They ate the bitter herbs. It was on that night and at that dinner that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Slide19.JPG

He took the unleavened bread, and He broke the bread as a symbol of His body that was going to be broken on the cross.  He took a cup of wine, and He explained to His friends that His blood was going to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  And then, with haste, Jesus got up from the table because God was calling Him to be obedient, even unto death.  He was going to become our Passover Lamb, and He would taste the bitterness of sin for all sinners.

The Passover is rich with symbols, from the lamb to the blood to the meal that followed.  Each element was carefully designated by God to represent a large truth.  But God had an even bigger plan in mind than freedom from the Egyptians when He provided instructions to the Israelites.  The Passover serves as a signpost that points toward something even greater for God’s people.

  • Exodus 12:12-13, Divine Mercy

If God’s people did as they were instructed and made their sacrifice in haste, the they were saved from the wrath of God.  Verse 12-13 –

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the LORD.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”

Slide20.JPG

And so begins the 10th plague, the death of every firstborn.  Who was judged this night?  Egyptians were pantheists, believing that everything in the world was part of a god or goddess.  And they were polytheists, worshiping many gods that were all around them.  Each god or goddess was involved in a different part of their lives.

God is very deliberate in His wrath, demonstrating his power over all of nature.  God says, “I am the Lord.”  He stands apart, holy.  All other gods are demons.  Each of the first 9 plagues demonstrated God’s sovereignty over a popular Egyptian god to demonstrate that He alone is God.  And now the 10th plague over all male firstborns including animals demonstrate that no one is god but God alone.

Death is a powerful and painful lesson.  It gets our attention like nothing else in this world.  And it’s unavoidable.  It is God’s final recourse in showing His power to liberate His people and God’s supremacy over Pharaoh’s little gods.  When Pharaoh refused, thousands perished.  When Israel believed, thousands lived.  And today, every person’s fate hinges on either believing or not believing the one true and living God in heaven.    And God used the ultimate death, His son Jesus, to save us.

Who needed mercy that night?  Everyone did.  Who received mercy that night?  Only those covered by the blood were granted divine mercy.

Romans 2:5 is addressed to those who have not accepted the blood covering of Jesus.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” 

Still today, everyone needs mercy.  But only those who accept that Jesus Christ is Lord and is true messiah receive it.  This is God’s plan to the end of time; in Revelation 7:9, there is a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  In Revelation 7:14, we are told who these people are and the distinguishing mark of the believer.

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Slide22.JPG

God has had a plan from the beginning to deliver us from our sins that deserve His wrath.   His judgment is perfect; that’s why we should fear Him.  But His mercy is perfect; that’s why we should love Him.  He first loved us and provided a way to deliver us from our sins that trap us in bondage.  We are free in Christ.

  • Exodus 12:14, Precious Memory

These lessons must be continually learned from one generation to the next.  Anything not carefully remembered is easily forgotten, so we must carefully prepare our lives and celebrations in a way that the next generation will also come to know the saving blood of Jesus.  Exodus 12:14 –

This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance.

Slide23.JPG

The Passover saved the Israelites who heeded God’s instructions. It was a “mighty blow,” the tenth and final plague that delivered them from the grip of Pharaoh.  As God’s judgment swept across the land, killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, the Israelites were safely covered from God’s wrath by the blood of a perfect sacrifice.  The next morning, the Egyptians wailed in distress while the Israelites tasted God’s freedom and goodness.  God had displayed His authority, identified His people, and upheld them among their oppressors.

Passover serves to remind us today of the ultimate deliverance that God has in mind for all of His people. In 1st Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Passover in Exodus is a shadow of what was to come.  And, that what was demonstrated on the cross was the substance.  1 Corinthians 5:7b,

For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Slide24.JPG

Jesus was in the prime of His life when He was sacrificed. He was a full-grown and vibrant man who was unblemished in that He never sinned and had no fault.  Every element of the Passover pointed to the Gospel, including God’s instruction to paint the blood of the lamb across doorposts. God would later instruct His people to identify themselves and exercise their faith by painting Jesus’ blood across their hearts.

In Messiah in the Passover, Dr. Rich Freeman describes the Passover as a signpost:

“Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the fulfillment of Passover. Like the first Passover lambs sacrificed to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt, Jesus’ death on the cross redeems us from slavery to sin … And just as the first Passover was very personal and the Israelites personally applied the blood of the lambs to the doors of their houses, we too, by faith, need to personally apply the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, to the doors of our hearts.”

The past picture of the Passover points to the future plan of God in Jesus Christ.

  • Conclusion

Although the Passover occurred thousands of years ago, Passover still points to our ultimate deliverance through Jesus Christ.  In Exodus, the Passover lamb saved the Israelites, an event that led them on their journey to the Promised Land. Today, Jesus saves us and leads us toward the promised land of Heaven.

Are you trapped?  There is deliverance in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb whose blood was poured out on the cross for us. We can trust in Jesus as the perfect, unblemished Lamb of God that stands in our place.

We are invited by God to escape judgment and find mercy through the blood of Jesus.  It is His desire that we flee the bitter bonds of sin.  We can experience deliverance from our past – and deliverance from all of the things that will ensnare us in the future – through the Lamb.

When we apply the blood of Jesus to our lives, we escape God’s judgment.  God will “pass over” us, and we will be spared eternal death.  Instead of receiving what we deserve, we will be given the gift of eternal life.  One day, we will arrive in Heaven, the land flowing with milk and honey, and all of God’s people will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (Revelation 5:12).

Slide26.JPG

To God be the glory.