The Davidic Covenant

I. Introduction

We’re going to get into 2 Samuel 7 today and discuss God’s covenant with David and the building of His temple, but we’re going to lay some groundwork first and describe what a covenant is and how many they are in the bible.

First, while the properties of a covenant sound like a promise, an agreement, a contract, a covenant has far more significance. A promise is a declaration from one person that he or she will or will not do something. You can say, “I promise to do something,” and you can even say, “I promise to do something if.” Promises should be ironclad. In reality, they’re not. I’m sure everyone in this room has had a promise given to them and then be incredibly disappointed when that promise was broken. I’m equally sure, if we’re going to be honest, everyone in the room has also given a promise that they didn’t keep. We tend not to remember those because we have an excuse, but a promise is a promise.

You know what irritates me in the movies? Some guy is rushing off to war or fighting an impossible battle or called on to do something incredibly dangerous and life threatening. Something like, “Here, your job is to take this giant tongue depressor and make Godzilla say ‘aaaah’ by running into his mouth.” And his girlfriend says, “Please don’t go!” And he responds, “I promise I’ll come back.” Either that is a promise that is completely out of his control and he has no business saying that, or it’s a movie spoiler because now we know he’s going to survive.

Then there is the agreement. If you do this, then I’ll do that. “Can you pick up the kids after school? I’ll make dinner if you do.” “You can borrow my car if you fill it with gas.” It’s two sided, requires something from both people.

Then there’s the contract, a legal contract. Your apartment lease, your mortgage, your student loan, your car payment. Even your phone bill. This is like an agreement, but if the agreement fails, there are repercussions spelled out in advance. “You agree to pay the following amount for your car every month by the 5th of the month. If it is not paid by the 5th, then a 10% penalty applies. If it is not paid by the 10th, we will repossess your children.” That sort of thing.

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Covenant encompasses many of the characteristics of a promise, agreement, and a contract, but it goes further. In the bible, a covenant is a spiritual agreement and has the following characteristics –

  1. A covenant is pure and righteous
  2. A covenant considers the benefit of the other person instead of one’s self
  3. A covenant is based on love
  4. A covenant is permanent

A contract is an agreement; a covenant is a pledge. A contract can be broken, a covenant cannot. You sign a contract, you seal a covenant.

Marriage should be covenants. That’s how the Lord intended them, as a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. We treat them like legal contracts, though. But I think that’s a completely different bible study.

So the bible itself is a covenant document. It is how God has chosen to reveal to us His plan to redeem us and give us eternal life. Within the bible, there are seven major covenants. Each covenant can be either conditional or unconditional; it can be specific to a single nation or it can be general. Conditional covenants are based on certain obligations and prerequisites; if the requirements are not fulfilled, the covenant is broken. Unconditional covenants are kept regardless of one party’s fidelity or infidelity.

II. Seven Covenants

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A) Adam (The Adamic Covenant), symbolized by the ground of the earth. This covenant comes in two parts –

  1. Edenic (innocence), Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant is general in nature and outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was the party of the first part; newly created man was the party of the second part. It regulated man’s dominion of the earth and presented a simple test of obedience. The penalty was death and condemnation for Adam and his descendants.
  2. Adamic (grace), Genesis 3:13-19. The Adamic covenant includes the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve. Satan’s tool, the serpent was cursed, women’s status was altered, the earth was cursed, spiritual and physical death resulted. But it wasn’t all bad, it also included the first promise of a future redeemer that would crush the head of Satan.

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B) Noahic Covenant, Genesis 8-9, symbolized by the rainbow. This covenant is between God and Noah specifically, and also with humanity in general. After the Flood, God promised humanity that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a Flood (see Genesis chapter 9). God gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, a promise that the entire earth would never again flood and a reminder that God can and will judge sin. It has nothing with the LGTBQ movement, they’ve corrupted a covenant symbol from God for their own selfish pleasures.

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C) Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, symbolized by the stars. In this covenant, God promised Abraham. that He would make Abraham’s name great, that Abraham would have numerous descendants, and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. God also made promises regarding the land of Israel. God also promised that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham, which is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

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D) Palestinian (Deuteronomic) Covenant, Deuteronomy 30:1-10, symbolized by the Sabbath. This unconditional covenant noted God’s promise to scatter Israel if they disobeyed God, then to restore them at a later time to their land. This covenant has been fulfilled twice, with the Babylonian Captivity and subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great; and with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, followed by the reinstatement of the nation of Israel in 1948.

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E) Mosaic Covenant, Deuteronomy 11, symbolized by the Two Tablet of the Law. This conditional covenant, specifically for the Old Testament Jews, promised the Israelites a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. It consisted of the Ten Commandments, social judgements, and religious ordinances. Over 600 commands, 300 positive, 300 negative. Much of the Old Testament chronicles the fulfillment of this cycle of judgment for sin and later blessing when God’s people repented and returned to God.

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F) Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7, which coincidentally are our bible study verses for today, symbolized by Jerusalem. This unconditional covenant, found in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, promised to bless David’s family line and assured an everlasting kingdom. God promised unconditionally to put a son of David on the throne, but only the righteous son would reign for eternity. While David’s son Solomon ruled over Israel, he failed to keep God’s commands. Only David’s descendant Jesus was the true and faithful Son deserving of the everlasting throne of David.

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G) The New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34, symbolized by the Passover Cup and Bread. The covenant of unconditional blessing based upon the finished redemption of Christ. It secures blessing for the church, it flows from the Abrahamic covenant, and secures all covenant blessings to converted Israel, including those of the Abrahamic, Palestinian, and Davidic covenants, and all who comes to God’s Only Son through faith. This covenant is unconditional, final and irreversible.

Seven Covenants. Seven is God’s number of perfection. We can either rest, like He did, or back up to #6 and spend some more time on the Davidic covenant. Since I already put these slides together, I say let’s look at the Davidic covenant in some more detail.

III. Davidic Covenant

The establishment of the house of David is an integral part of God’s master plan to fulfill the promise made in Genesis to defeat the enemy and crush the head of the serpent. So far, God has brought His people out of Egypt and has given them a good land. He has driven out their enemies, making His presence known by winning battles the Israelites couldn’t win on their own.

But because of their sinfulness in the days of the Judges, God was angered and delivered them into the hands of their enemies in fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant. When Israel repented, Psalm 78 tells us that God came to their rescue. God set His servant David as the shepherd of Israel, and as the Servant King on the throne.

The Davidic Covenant represents one of the most significant moments in God’s plan for the people of God. Psalm 78:67-72, makes it clear that the placement of David on the throne was a major milestone in God’s plans for redemption and was essential to the establishment of God’s rule in Israel.

He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

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The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a preillustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. So let’s take a look at the Davidic Covenant, its explanation and its meaning for us today. We’ll begin with 2 Samuel 7:1-3,

IV. The Davidic Covenant’s Explanation

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

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The Davidic Covenant took place between King David and God, when King David made plans to build God a house of cedar. The kingdom of Israel was at rest from their enemies, and David pours the thoughts of his heart out to his faithful prophet Nathan. He says, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” David sensed the incongruity of living in an impressive palace while the Ark of God was still in a tent. I mean, if David was in a palace of cedar, then surely God’s ark ought to be in a palace! David’s humility and his love for the Lord moved him with the desire to bring about a change and he shared that desire with Nathan, his friend, his prophet. And Nathan, perceiving the king’s sincere motivation, gave his blessing on the project. Nathan said, “go and do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
In verses 4-7, we see the Lord’s gracious response.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

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The same night that David shared this with Nathan and Nathan instructed him, “Go and do it, the Lord is with you,” the Lord came to Nathan and instructed him to put a question to David. God said, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD,’ Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?”

Now, look at how good and wise our sovereign Lord is in the way He sends these words to David. God gives these words to David from the mouth of Nathan and not from another prophet, so that the reputation of Nathan would not be impugned. I mean, what would it have been like, if God had sent another prophet to tell this to David. It would have appeared that Nathan had spoken falsely. But God is good, and He allows Nathan to be the one to deliver this news. Just think how perplexing it would have been to David to have had Nathan tell him one thing during the day, then another prophet shows up and says not to do it. The Lord’s wisdom and kindness are seen in the way that He delivers this message to David. David is not confused, and Nathan’s reputation is not damaged.
In fact, we later find out from the lips of David’s son, Solomon, that the Lord told David that He was pleased with what David wanted to do. 1 Kings 8:18-19,

But the LORD said to my father David, “Because it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.”

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Solomon tells us that the Lord told David that He was pleased with the desires of his heart. Then, in 2 Samuel 7:6, the Lord reminds David of an important spiritual truth. He says,

“For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle.”

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Stop for a moment and think how profound those words are. First, they point to God’s willingness to identify with His people. If His people must travel in the wilderness in tents, God is going to be there with them. The sovereign God of Israel is not removed from His people, He is near to His people, and He even shares in their humiliations. Is this not a foretaste of Christ’s tabernacling with His people? And yet, you see it here in the sovereign God of Israel.

Secondly, these words emphasize God’s continual presence with His people. He is not distant or unconcerned. He is near. He is in the midst of His people. And our glorious Lord Jesus Christ would one day show forth beyond all human expectation, the extent of God’s commitment to be with His people, as John tells us in John 1:14, that

“He was made flesh and He dwelt, He tabernacled among us.”

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In 2 Samuel 7:8-11 the covenant which God inaugurates with David is explained and established.

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

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The Lord surpasses Himself in blessing David. He reminds David that it was He who chose him and made him ruler, telling him in verse 8, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.”

God has been with David, He has given him victory over His enemies. God is the one who has made David great, He is the one who will continue to make David great. The Lord reminds him in verse 9,

“And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.”

Furthermore, God says in verse 11 that He will establish His people in their own land, and He will give them rest from their enemies. And ultimately, that the Lord Himself will build David a house.

“From the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.”

Notice that Nathan tells David “God will make you a house.” There is an intentional play on words the Hebrew language. David begun this passage by saying that he wanted to build a house for the Lord. Of course, by that, he meant a temple. In Hebrew, the word for house (bayith), can also mean palace. Interestingly, the word for temple and house is the same word for dynasty in Hebrew. And so there is a play on words going on here. David says “Lord, I want to build you a house,” meaning a temple, “because it is not right for me to be in a house,” meaning a palace, “and You dwell in a tent.” And God replies, “David, you will build Me a house?” meaning a temple. “No. I will build you a house,” meaning a dynasty.

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On one hand, you had a king building a house of cedar for God; good intentions and well-meaning heart. On the other hand, you have the Creator of the Universe wanting to build a house for you that is not limited to time or geography. Which one has a bigger vision? From the time that God saw David in the pasture tending sheep as the youngest of 8 boys, God saw beyond the pasture. God saw a dynasty, a lineage, a bloodline that would change history for all time.

The Lord was not speaking of building David a house of cedar. He was speaking of building David a dynasty. That is something Saul wanted but did not get.

Saul wanted Jonathan to sit on the throne and God told Saul that Jonathan would not sit on the throne of Israel. But now God is saying to David, “David, your sons will sit on the throne of Israel.” So, the Lord says, “You will not build Me a house, a temple, but I will build you a house, a dynasty.” He would establish David and his seed after him, as the monarchs of the people of God.

V. The Davidic Covenant’s Establishment

2 Samuel 7:12-17

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

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With these words we have the formal inauguration of God’s covenant with David, though the word “covenant” is not found here. Other passages explicitly state that this was a covenant inauguration. For instance, in Psalm 89:3-4,

I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David, My servant, your seed will I establish forever and build up your throne to all generations.

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You will also find similar wording in Psalm 132. The covenant promises a number of blessings to David:

  1. First, his own flesh and blood will occupy the throne. “And when thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and I will set up thy seed after thee which shall proceed out of your body, I will establish his kingdom.” This is no small promise, given the political instability of the near east kingdoms of David’s time, or for today for that matter.
  2. Secondly, David’s heir will fulfill David’s desire by building a house for God. “He shall build a house for My name.”
  3. David’s heir will stand in unique relationship to God. God will be his father, and he will be His son. Nathan proclaims this amazing word, “I will be his father and he will shall be My son.” Now, we who live under the New Covenant and have the privilege of addressing God as our Father, may not be too startled by that statement, but to the Hebrew ear, it would have been unbelievable. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is an individual so clearly designated a son of God. And yet that is the blessing of David’s covenant.
  4. Fourth, David’s heir may experience punishment for sins, but he will not be cast off like Saul. Look at that second phrase in verse 14, “when he commits inequity, I will correct him with the rod of men and strokes of the sons of man.” On the surface, that looks very negative. However, in the context of Saul having been cut off, that is actually a very positive thing. God is saying, “If he stumbles, and he will, I will not cut him off like Saul. I will discipline him, but I will not cut him off.” This of course, proved important in the days of Solomon’s disobedience as well as for many of the kings of Judah.
  5. Fifth and finally, God makes the astonishing promise that David’s kingdom will last forever in verse 16. “Your house, your kingdom will be established forever before Me. Your throne will be established forever.” David’s dynasty is without parallel in the ancient near east in length of duration. His house ruled Judah for over four hundred years, far longer than any of the ruling families in the Northern kingdom.
    The promise was not that the lineage of David would reign for a long time, but that it would reign forever. That leads the prophets of the Old Testament to say that this Davidic promise would only be fulfilled in the Messiah. That, of course, is exactly how the New Testament interprets it. This reign is ultimately fulfilled in the reign of the son of David, Jesus Christ and His eternal messianic rule. The succession of the Davidic kings under the Old Covenant was a type. It was a shadowy figure. A pre-illustration of the unbroken eternal reign of the Lord Jesus, who, even now, reigns at the right hand in heaven. This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the reign of Christ.

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VI. The Davidic Covenant’s Meaning Today

The mission of the church today is to submit ourselves to the Son of David who now rules invisibly from heaven until He puts every enemy under His feet. And, our mission is to announce the good news to people in every neighborhood and every nation that they can be happy subjects of Christ’s kingdom forever if they transfer their allegiance from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of Christ.

To put it another way, personal holiness means learning the attitudes and customs of a new kingdom: the kingdom of Christ. And personal evangelism means telling people that the rightful king of the world against whom they have rebelled is willing to grant amnesty to all who return and live under His rule. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the eternal King of the world will come from heaven and establish a reign of joy and righteousness and peace over all his loyal subjects forever and ever. And until He comes, the worldwide mission of the church is to extend complete, free, universal amnesty to people from every nation.

Here is a parable from our Lord recorded in Luke 19:11-27 –

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While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done. The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’ The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

Jesus compares Himself to a nobleman who has gone to a distant country to receive a kingdom and then return. The distant country represents heaven, and after receiving the kingdom of Heaven, the nobleman will return. Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, will not sit upon the throne of David until His second coming to earth.

Israel was not prepared to receive the Messiah when He came to earth the first time. Will we be prepared when He comes to earth the second time and establishes His Kingdom? Isaiah 55:1-3 says,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

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The very mercy and faithfulness that guarantees David an eternal kingdom will guarantee you all the joy and righteousness and peace of that kingdom. It is a promise made by God. God is saying to you this morning: “if you will come to me empty-handed and hungry, willing to receive what I give, then I will write for myself in your presence a job description and bind myself with an oath to treat you forever with the same mercy and faithfulness that I have demonstrated in my covenant with David.”

Hear the call of the Lord Jesus Himself in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:16,

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.
Come to the Son of David, come to the King of Kings, and He will sign with His own blood your personal copy of the job description He has written for Himself- to be God to you. And He will give it to you as an eternal covenant, never to turn away from doing you good.

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The choice is yours. What will you do with God’s covenant promise?

To God be the glory. Amen.

Step Out in Faith

 

Introduction

 

Moses is dead.

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I hope this didn’t come as a shock to you.  It’s been in the news for almost 3500 years.

Moses was preceded in death by his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were given the following promise in Genesis 13:14-17 –

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.  I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

The Lord will give Abram the Promised Land, but it came with a caveat.  Genesis 15:13-16.

God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.  But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.  As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.  Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

If you’re reading your bible chronologically, Jacob’s brothers threw him in a well, he was taken to Egypt where he became Pharaoh’s Vice President, and eventually Jacob’s brothers and their father Isaac relocated to Egypt because of a great famine.  And they liked the neighborhood so much, they stayed in Egypt for 400 years, fulfilling the first part of this prophecy.

But it turned out to be a trap.

Slide5.JPGPharaoh enslaved the Israelites living there. Then the people cried out and the Lord heard their calls, and the Lord raised up Moses to free His people.  In Exodus 3:7-9, God tells Moses it’s time to complete this prophecy,

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.  So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.  Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

The Lord then freed them from Pharaoh.  The Israelites left Egypt after Passover, crossed the Red Sea, collected the Ten Commandments, they did not pass God, and the Lord brought the Israelites into a covenant relationship unto himself.  But then the Israelites created idol worship in the form of a golden calf because they are a stiff-necked people.  To once again purify His people, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years while the old, rebellious generation died off.  Including Moses.

The year is approximately 1400 B.C., maybe 1370 B.C.  Moses has just passed away at the ripe old age of 120 years old and buried at the top of Mount Nebo in Moab.

And then I went down the rabbit trail.  Sometimes I get so caught up in interesting information that has nothing to do with the lesson, and I learned a great deal about Moses.  Which isn’t important to today’s lesson because…

Moses is dead.

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But in the past when I’ve gone down the rabbit trail, some of you have told me you like coming with me in case we catch a rabbit, so I’m going to share a view things I learned about Moses.  First, Moses is dead.

We know that because of Deuteronomy 34:5-7,

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.  And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.  Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.

Before he died, there were some odd facts –

  • Moses probably stuttered.  Exodus 4:10, Moses said, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
  • Moses led the Exodus when he was 80 years old.  I’m doing the MS150 at the age of 58 and it doesn’t seem like such an accomplishment when I think of how old Moses was.
  • Moses was scared of snakes.  In Exodus 4:3, the Lord tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turned into a snake and Moses ran away.
  • Moses had leprosy for probably 3 seconds in Exodus 4:6. The Lord gave it, and the Lord took it away.
  • During the Exodus, Moses’ wife and sons were not with him.  He sent them to live with his father-in-law.  His wife and sons returned to him after the Exodus at the base of Mount Sinai, Exodus 18:7.
  • Most Renaissance statues of Moses depict him with horns like a bull.  Here is Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.  This is because of a terrible translation of the original Hebrew.  Exodus 34:29 says when Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face shown, like with rays from the sun.  But the Latin translation from the Hebrew used a word that could also mean “horned,” as if on a bull.  So for centuries, Moses was shown with horns.

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So these are the interesting things about Moses before he died.  But then after the death of Moses – because, after all, Moses is dead – came these odd facts –

  • Michael the archangel and the Satan fought over the body of Moses.  Really.  Jude 1:9, “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”Slide17.JPG
  • Moses was resurrected before Christ.  In the Old Testament, we know that Elijah was taken up to heaven, bypassing death.  And we know that Moses died, according to Deuteronomy 34 which we just read a few moments ago.  All other old testament righteous Jews went to paradise or “Abraham’s bosom” and they wait for the second coming of Jesus, but Moses was resurrected and appeared with Elijah before Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2-3.  There was a whole ‘nother rabbit hole of the differences between sheol, hades, hell, heaven, and the lake of fire that I also went down at this point but if we want to finish before the Methodists, I’m going to have to wrap this part up.Slide18.JPG
  • One last thing, I think there’s still one more task for Moses.  In Revelation 11, there are two witnesses that prophecy of the tribulation.  Most scholars believe these are again Elijah and Moses because of the miracles they perform in Revelation and that the last chapter of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:4-6, mentions Elijah and Moses together in the end times.  And I did not go down the Revelation rabbit hole because I’ve peeked down that hole and it’s a very long, long, long rabbit hole.Slide20.JPGSlide19.JPG

So after finishing these 3 rabbit holes of Moses, Hades vs Hell, and the book of Revelation, where were we?  Oh yes.

Moses is dead.

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In the book of Joshua we see a new generation of Israelites, poised at the edge of the Jordan River, preparing to cross into their new beginning and take possession of the land. The Promise is about to be fulfilled.  But who would lead them?  Somebody new must take the place of Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land.  There was one young politician that was a possibility, named Bernie Sanders, but since he was only in his 20’s at this time, he was considered too young and inexperienced.

 

Joshua

 

So who led them into the Promised Land?  I’ll give you a hint.  We’re studying the book of Joshua, so the new leader is… Joshua.  Joshua is first introduced to us as Moses’ assistant in Exodus, and in Joshua 1 we see he is now the leader of the people, and the Lord now speaks to Joshua in the opening verses of Joshua 1:1-4:

Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.  Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.  From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.

And the Lord gives Joshua specific instructions for taking possession of their new land in the next 3 verses, Joshua 1:5-7:

No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

God had kept His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.  Abraham’s children may have numbered in the millions already, and they were on the brink of entering the Promised Land.  And now, the Lord will use Joshua to lead the Israelites to take possession of the land.  The Lord affirms that the time is now for Joshua to step out in faith, to step into His new purpose, and to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

To take the first step toward this new beginning, Joshua believed the Word of God.  Joshua trusted the promises of God.  And Joshua’s belief determined his behavior. He was ready for the next step, to step out in faith across the River Jordan.

Let’s have a short show and tell about the River Jordan.

Slide24.JPGIts Hebrew names is נְהַר הַיַּרְדֵּן‎ Nahar ha-Yarden; the river runs 156 miles north to south through the Sea of Galilee and ends in the Dead Sea.  Despite the old song that says the river is deep, the river is wide, the Jordan River is neither; the river is about 30 feet across and six feet deep.

Here’s a before and after picture when Diane and I went to Israel.  This is before being baptized in the River Jordan…

…And this is after being baptized.  Now, both of us had already been baptized earlier in our Christian life, but neither of us wanted to pass up the opportunity to get baptized in the same water that Jesus did.

Apparently there are no baptisms allowed except in designated areas, so be forewarned.

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So up until this time, the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness, led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, eating manna day in and day out. The time had come for them to step out in faith, step into the purpose and promise of God, and take the land that He promised them.  It was time to cross the River Jordan.  But are they ready for their next step?

 

Set Our Eyes on Him

 

The first step for Joshua and the people were to make sure their eyes were set upon the Lord.  Joshua 3:1-4,

Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.  At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;  and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.  However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

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Joshua rose early – maybe not as early as I do.  I like to say that I don’t mind waking up at 4:20am, but it comes so early in the morning.  Anyway, Joshua rose early and ordered the camp to move alongside the Jordan River and camp there for three days.

As the tribes of Israel traveled through the wilderness, each tribe had an assigned place and an assigned order in the march. Since they had never come this way before, Joshua tells the people they would follow the Lord.  The Lord will lead the way and guide them.  The people were to remain 2,000 cubits behind, which is just over ½ mile.  In metric units, that’s about 400 centipedes.  Joshua wanted them to stay back so everybody could see the ark.  If they crowded too close, only a few in the front could see it.

In Exodus 25, God provides instructions for building the ark of the covenant and verse 22 explains God’s presence:

There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.

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To the Israelites, the ark symbolizes God’s presence.  God tells the priests to carry the ark and lead the people.  God is saying, “I am with you.”  God is letting them know that if they focused on Him, He would carry them into the Promised Land.

 

Set Ourselves Apart

 

Joshua 3:5-6,

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”  And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people.

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This was both an order and a promise.  Some of God’s promises are unconditional; they require only that we believe them.  Other promises are conditional; certain conditions must be satisfied before the promise is met.

Joshua was making sure the Israelites’ hearts were ready for the next step through consecration.  This was a process of bathing and changing clothes.  It was symbolic of getting prepared for a new beginning.  Before setting out on the Lord’s direction, the people had to be prepared.

Joshua understood that following the Lord successfully required preparation, a recognition that God is holy and lives should be properly prepared for the work ahead.  This would allow the Israelites to prepare for a new life with the Lord.

 

Step Out in Faith

 

Joshua 3:7-8,

Now the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.  You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”

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It was the responsibility of the priests to carry the ark of the covenant and go before the people as they marched.  But there was still an obstacle in front of them – the River Jordan, which was wide and deep.  After freeing the people from Pharaoh and giving them the Ten Commandments and proving manna in the wilderness, does God still provide miracles?

Joshua 3:9-13,

Then Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.”  Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.  Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you into the Jordan.  Now then, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe.  It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.”

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Living faith always leads to action, and action always requires a first step. Joshua reminds the people that they serve a living God who is able to do abundantly more than they can even imagine.

 

Step Into the Promise

 

Joshua 3:14-17,

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off.  So the people crossed opposite Jericho.  And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Most of the year, the Jordan River was about thirty feet wide, but during flood season, the river could overflow its banks and expand to about a mile wide.  For three days, the Israelites camped beside the river, watching the impassable waters, hearing the rush of the river all hours of the day and night, not knowing how they were going to cross.  It was a tremendous obstacle.

But God’s plan was simple.  God said, “Set your eyes on me.  Consecrate yourselves.  And trust Me.”  As the priests led the way by stepping out in faith into the waters, the Lord responded with a miracle, stopping the flow of water.  With each step, the water rose up, many miles away.  Commentators say Zarethan was 30 miles upstream.  God made a wide path for His two million Promised Land people to take their next step.

We see in verse 15 that the feet of the priests were “dipped in the edge of the water” until they were standing on dry ground in the middle of the river. It was the smallest of steps, but it was enough to begin a mighty miracle. Through the obedient feet of the priests, stepping out in faith and into His promise, the way was opened for them all to move forward.

 

What Does It Mean?

 

The Israelites crossed the River Jordan and camped at Gilgal where they erected a stone memorial to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Promised Land.  After instructing the people to focus on the Lord and consecrate themselves for a new beginning, Joshua instructed the Levite priests to pick up the ark of the covenant and step into the River Jordan.  When they did, like the parting of the Red Sea, the water stopped and allowed the people to cross.

So what does it all mean?  Can we learn faith and obedience from Joshua?

First, we should focus our eyes on what the Lord wants from us.  In the familiar story from Matthew 14, Jesus walks on the water.  Peter is a lot like all of us, I believe.  We, too want to be like Christ.  So Peter calls out to Jesus and says, “Let me walk on the water, too!”  And he does.  But then he takes his eyes off Jesus and immediately begins to sink.

The world tells us that we should be rich.  Or powerful.  Or successful or beautiful or funny or outgoing or anything.  This is not the word of the Lord, and it distracts us from Him.  And we help the world by filling our minds with junk.  Xfinity and Netflix, Youtube and Hulu and Disney and a thousand other distractions.  When our eyes are on the world, they are not on Christ.  And when our eyes are on Christ, they are not on the world.

Then, like the Israelites, we prepare ourselves for our New Beginning.  We consecrate ourselves.  But most of us, me included, spend way too much time holding on to our old life.  We have a new beginning in Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

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

Yet when we walk outside of the church doors, I bet our neighbors and coworkers see more of our old life than our new life.  I have already entered into eternity with Christ Jesus, yet I’m still dragging around my earthly possessions, still gossiping about others, expressing indignation and unforgiveness over the slightest infraction.  Who am I?  Am I still in the world?  Or have I consecrated myself for the One who purchased me with His blood?

Prepare ourselves by filling us with the Word every day and putting on the whole armor of God.  Be prepared for the day that God has given us.

Once I’m focused on the Lord’s will and dedicated myself to His purposes, it’s time for me to step out in faith.  An important observation about our study of Joshua 3 is that the water didn’t first stop, and then the people crossed.  Oh no, they had to step into the water first, then the water stopped.  God is capable of every miracle imaginable, but he wants us to trust Him.  Step into the water, and trust God that He will act.

It is time for us to get our feet wet.  Many of us are still sitting by our River Jordan, watching the river flow by and waiting for some sort of sign it’s time to step up.  But God will never show us the way if we’re not going anywhere.

So until we are willing to step out in faith and step into the purpose and promise God has for us, our new beginning won’t be in the here and now, this very minute, our present.  Our new beginning will only be in our future. It’s a waste of this very minute of time, this very breath that the good Lord gave us.

But if we focus on the Lord, remove earthly distractions, and take that first step in faith, God will stop the river, He will part the sea, He will move the mountains, He will slay the giants, and He still the storms.

If only there was some song that captured the essence of stepping into the River Jordan in faith…

Step out in faith, sanctified and focused, and see the miracles God will do.

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If only there was a song that captured stepping into the River Jordan in faith…

Are we in? Focus, Get Prepared, and Dive in. And All God’s people said…

To God be the glory. Amen.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.” 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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).

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To God be the glory.