Tell the kids
The Lord wants his people to celebrate (tell the kids) when by his strength he brought a terrible judgment and great salvation. We are to celebrate when the Lord by his strength judged and saved.
The inner west of Sydney is now one of the wealthiest areas in Sydney – joining the Eastern Suburbs and Mosman – according to the Sydney Morning Herald. It is also one of the most godless in Sydney – according to the census.
It is my deep hope – it is my deep prayer – that within our generation we might see a change in that – that this area would become an area where our friends and neighbours loved and honored the lord Jesus. Where this wasn’t on the census as the most anti-Christian part of Sydney – but the most deeply Christian part of our nation. And that as this area has so many influences (media people and others) living here, that there might be ripples from here for Christ – spread across Australia.
I hope and pray that those who love Christ – would then put him first seriously – be really mature in Christ – and passionate about upholding his name and reputation – and be growing to be more mature in Christ. That’s my longing. That’s my passion.
And so I want us, as Christians, to be prayerfully pushing forward – in the power of the spirit….
Pushing forward to be more mature in Christ.
Pushing forward to better magnify Christ.
Pushing forward to be better at incorporating people into membership.
Pushing forward to be training people in ministry.
And pushing forward in raising up people for mission.
To this end, in Annandale church, we have appointed an assistant minister to push forward particularly in the area of Maturity and Children’s ministry, which we have identified as areas in which we want to push forward next year.
1. Celebrating success (Exodus 13:14-16).
I was at a thing yesterday – and there was a speaker from New Zealand – and she couldn’t help herself mentioning that New Zealand had won three gold medals in the current Olympics, and Australia had only won one. And we were so confident …
I think this week – our confidence has taken a dent. And so we are wary of anyone sounding confident.
And so it is amazing to think that in Exodus 13:14, God says to Moses to tell the people of Israel that there is going to be a time of celebration in the future, years, decades down the track. That’s confidence!
And God says to Moses to tell the people, (Exodus 13:14):
14. “In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘By the strength of His hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of man to the firstborn of livestock. That is why I sacrifice to the Lord all the firstborn of the womb that are males, but I redeem all the firstborn of my sons.’ 16 So let it be a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead, for the Lord brought us out of Egypt by the strength of His hand.”
God is saying tell the kids – in generations to come – how mighty God was; how when Pharaoh was stubborn – God judged him. God inflicted a terrible judgment on Pharaoh.
And God brought us a great amazing rescue/salvation. Tell the kids about the great judgment and the great salvation.
I am going to talk today about the great judgment and the great salvation/rescue. We are going to talk about the even greater judgment and the even greater rescue – that happens more than a millennium later. We are going to actually work through how we might as a church tell the kids about the great act of judgment and salvation that happened at the Exodus, and the even greater act of judgment and salvation that happened in Jesus.
2. Slavery and Nine plagues
We have seen that the book of Exodus starts with God’s people – in slavery in Egypt.
And God has raised up Moses. Moses has gone, at God’s direction, and spoken to Pharaoh and said,
‘God says – “Let my people go!”’
Pharaoh said no. God sent a plague. It went back and forth nine times.
3. The Lord’s final warning of judgment and great promise of salvation
The Lord’s final warning of terrible judgment comes in Exodus 11:1-10.
‘The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you out of here. Now announce to the people that both men and women should ask their neighbors for silver and gold jewelry.”’
It’s not going to be that the Egyptians will say to the Israelites: “We will give you ninety percent!” God is predicting total capitulation. Like a victorious army makes off with the plunder, so the Israelites will leave Egypt with the plunder.
‘4. So Moses said, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt, and every firstborn male in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the servant girl who is behind the millstones, as well as every firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a great cry of anguish through all the land of Egypt such as never was before, or ever will be again.”’
Israel had cried to Yahweh for deliverance in Chapter 2:23. Israel cried to Pharaoh in anguish in 5:15.
Now Egypt will cry. But there is a distinction – Israel will be spared:
“7. But against all the Israelites, whether man or beast, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that Yahweh makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”
The Lord teaches his people to celebrate their salvation (Chapter 12:1-28)
And then the Lord tells his people – of the rescue that is coming. And it is so certain – they can plan the party. And they can plan the anniversary party.
And the tenth year anniversary party.
And the 100th year anniversary party.
12:1 ‘The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 “This month is to be the beginning of months for you; it is the first month of your year. What is about to happen is such a big deal – that from now on you will mark the calendar as having started at this point.”’
This is the defining moment. This is the day to celebrate. You will date things from now on – as before this rescue date – and after this rescue date.
Just incidentally, why is it that people started dating our calendar BC and AD? Before Christ and Anno Domino. Well, people came to see that the rescue that took place in Christ was of even greater significance than this rescue.
3. ‘Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they must each select an animal of the flock according to their fathers’ households, one animal per household.’
It’s to be a family celebration, not a community or national, but a domestic/family remembrance.
4. ‘If the household is too small for a whole animal, that person and the neighbour nearest his house are to select one based on the combined number of people; you should apportion the animal according to what each person will eat. 5. You must have an unblemished animal, a year-old male; you may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter the animals at twilight. They must take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where they eat them. They are to eat the meat that night; they should eat it, roasted over the fire along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.’
It’s to be barbecued. It’s to be roast lamb. Blood and fat were forbidden to Israel – but roasting would mean they could eat it, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. We Australians would call them dampers.
9. ‘Do not eat any of it raw or cooked in boiling water, but only roasted over fire—its head as well as its legs and inner organs. Do not let any of it remain until morning; you must burn up any part of it that does remain before morning.’
I suspect the reason they weren’t to leave anything was to discourage any possibility of magical practice – using bits of it superstitiously for things.
11. ‘Here is how you must eat it: you must be dressed for travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in a hurry; it is the Lord’s Passover.’
They are to re-enact the way they would have eaten the meal back then. They are to eat in a hurry. It’s not a leisurely meal around the table. It’s not stopping at Macca’s – it’s going through the drive through. They are to remember how it was when they escaped… they were in a rush.
12. “I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and strike every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. I am Yahweh; I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Moses did as the Lord said, and organized the people.
14. ‘This day is to be a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. You are to celebrate it throughout your generations as a permanent statute.’
Now jump down to verse 21:
21. ‘Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select an animal from the flock according to your families, and slaughter the Passover animal.
22. Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin. None of you may go out the door of his house until morning. When the Lord passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, He will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you.
24. Keep this command permanently as a statute for you and your descendants. 25. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as He promised, you are to observe this ritual.”’
And notice that the expectation is that the kids would ask them about it….
26. ‘When your children ask you, “What does this ritual mean to you?”’
There will inevitably be questions.
For years the most common word in our house was the word from our children “WHY?”
Why this? Why that? What does this mean?
And what should you do when you get the why question? Well, you tell them:
27. ‘You are to reply, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and spared our homes.’”
There would be real conversations – Israelite fathers and mothers with Israelite children – about God’s terrible act of judgment – and God’s great act of salvation.
Kids didn’t grow up with a sense that God was distant and impotent. Kids grew up with the very clear sense that God was absolutely at the center of forming their national and family identity. There was lambs’ blood shed – and lambs’ blood on the post. They were safe because of the shedding of the lambs’ blood for them – and the blood on the post.
4. God’s terrible judgment and great salvation – a personal and theological catastrophe for Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30)
Look at verse 29 and get a sense of the terrible judgment – the total catastrophe this was every family and for the nation of Egypt.
29. ‘Now at midnight the Lord struck every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and every firstborn of the livestock.’
But it wasn’t just the Pharaoh’s eldest son – it was all the way down to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Every family was in crisis. Every family was in despair. Nationally, the eldest son of the Pharaoh was worshipped as some kind of god – and he was dead. The son of the king was dead!
Well who will inherit the kingdom – and what happens to national leadership?
30. ‘During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud wailing throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead.’
5. God’s great salvation – The Israelites plunder the Egyptians (Exodus12: 31-37)
Pharaoh says go. This is the great salvation….
31. ‘He summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and said, “Get up, leave my people, both you and the Israelites, and go, worship Yahweh as you have asked. Take even your flocks and your herds as you asked and leave, and also bless me.”
33. Now the Egyptians pressured the people in order to send them quickly out of the country, for they said, “We’re all going to die!” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their clothes on their shoulders.
35. The Israelites acted on Moses’ word and asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord gave the people such favour in the Egyptians’ sight that they gave them what they requested. In this way they plundered the Egyptians.
37. The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 soldiers on foot, besides their families.’
Those who trust included (Exodus 12:38-51)
Now, among the group that left Egypt there was a significant group of non-Israelites that came as well.
My suspicion is that these are people who, as they have seen the plagues crush Egypt, have aligned themselves with the Israelites and the God of Israel. So see sentence 38:
38 ‘An ethnically diverse crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds.’
Lots of people went with them. That seems good at this point. They end up causing problems a little later on – but let’s put that aside for a moment.
In terms of food, everyone ate the flat, unleavened bread for there was no time for the bread to rise. And so part of the repeated ceremony was flat bread – bread without yeast.
39 ‘The people baked the dough they had brought out of Egypt into unleavened loaves, since it had no yeast; for when they had been driven out of Egypt they could not delay and had not prepared any provisions for themselves.’
So what was to happen was that there would be the Passover meal. Then would be a series of meals without bread that rose. The series of meals without bread that rose would be because, for the week after the gaining of freedom/the release, the Israelites would be rushing, and the Egyptians would be chasing them until they got past the Red Sea.
That means that there were two commemorative festivals:
The Passover festival at the start, and then the festival of unleavened bread over the next week.
You get a little more on that in 13:3:
3. ‘Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day when you came out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, for the Lord brought you out of here by the strength of His hand. Nothing leavened may be eaten. 4. Today, in the month of Abib, you are leaving. 5. When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers that He would give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you must carry out this ritual in this month. 6. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there is to be a festival to the Lord. 7. Unleavened bread is to be eaten for those seven days. Nothing leavened may be found among you, and no yeast may be found among you in all your territory. 8. On that day explain to your son, ‘This is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9. Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the Lord’s instruction may be in your mouth; for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand. 10. Keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.’
That’s the unleavened bread festival!
Now look at Chapter 12:51 and we will pick up there…
51. ‘On that same day the Lord brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt according to their divisions.’
God rescued them!
5 The Lord expects a response (Exodus Chapter 13:1-13)
Now, in chapter 13, having rescued his people, God sets forward some expectations for how his people are to live.
And God having unilaterally, generously, spectacularly rescued/saved his people – now demands something of his saved people. What God wants from them is their first, their best, the most precious thing they have…. their firstborn!
13:1 ‘The Lord spoke to Moses: 2. “Consecrate every firstborn male to me, the firstborn from every womb among the Israelites, both man and domestic animal; it is mine.”’
What’s the thing about a firstborn? Well, you are not sure if you are going to get a second one. So if you offer your first sheep to God, you are trusting that the ewe will have a second baby lamb. It is an act of faith.
Just incidentally, it’s these themes in the Bible that cause God’s New Testament people – Christians – to give financially first to God, not the left overs, the last thing, but the first thing.
But it’s not just animals – it’s sons. Lets read sentence 11:
11. “When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, you are to present to the Lord every firstborn male of the womb. All firstborn offspring of the livestock you own that are males will be the Lord’s.”
I just have a few thoughts here that I want to put out there.
That is so different from England in Norman times. In England in Norman times, the eldest son inherited the estate. Then second son went to serve in army. The third son served in the priesthood. And then later on the fourth son went to the Colonies.
But do you see what that mindset has done? God has been relegated to third.
FIRST – FAMILY;
SECOND – COUNTRY; and
THIRD – GOD.
What is your ambition for your children?
My father was at our house the other day, and he was encouraging my daughter, Hannah to think about what she might do at university. And it’s very clear that his ambition for his grandchildren is high marks at university.
What’s my ambition?
Every single night when I pray with our kids, I go into the boys’ room, and I pray for them. I pray for what exactly I want for them. I figure I might as well pray it lots, and I pray it in their hearing, so that they know that if God doesn’t give me this I will be disappointed. I pray every night for them that they might be strong men of God.
I don’t know what that will look like. I don’t know what they will do. But I pray that they would BE strong men of God.
I don’t mind if they go to university or not. I don’t mind if they are prime ministers or baristas. But my prayer is that they would be strong men of God.
There is then a section of fine print. See if you have a donkey (and a donkey is ritually unclean), then you do not offer it to God in sacrifice… instead you redeem it – you exchange something else for it – a lamb for instance.
13. ‘ You must redeem every firstborn of a donkey with a flock animal, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck.’
However, you must redeem every firstborn among your sons.
Your eldest sons are not to be sacrificed as living sacrifices. Rather, you must redeem your eldest son (he’s not yours – you buy him back) by sacrificing a lamb in place of your eldest son. That’s what Abraham did with Isaac. He was to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice to God. His hand was poised over the boy, and God said, “No sacrifice the lamb instead.”
Look at sentence 14….
“In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘By the strength of his hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 15. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of man to the firstborn of livestock.”
God killed their firstborn, but kept our firstborn for himself.
‘That is why I sacrifice to the Lord all the firstborn of the womb that are males, but I redeem all the firstborn of my sons.’ 16. So let it be a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead, for the Lord brought us out of Egypt by the strength of His hand.’
Every time there is an eldest male born, there is a graphic reminder that God rescued us from slavery in Egypt. Every family, when their eldest son was born had to think – he’s God’s. He’s not mine. I have to purchase him back from God. It was a very big thing.
6. A great judgment and salvation
It was a great judgment on Egypt. It was an even greater salvation for Israel. And the yearly observance anchored future Israelites to real past history – that this was the defining moment in this people’s history.
7. An even greater judgment and salvation (Mark 14:12-15)
I looked through the Bible at other times that it is recorded that Passover was celebrated.
Of course it was every year, but there are particular ones mentioned:
The time the Israelites took Jericho in Joshua 5. That was Passover weekend, when God brought judgment and victory.
The time God rescued his people from the oppression of the Midianites – under Gideon in Judges 6. That was Passover weekend.
It was Passover weekend (in 2 Chronicles 29) when Hezekiah led Israel in repentance.
a. Christ is our Passover lamb. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
But the big one according to the synoptic gospels is in Jerusalem in AD 33. It’s clear Jesus died on Passover weekend, and that there is a new lamb whose blood was shed that we might be saved.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians – calling Christ the Passover lamb.
(1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
6. ‘ Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough? 7. Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. You are indeed unleavened, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. 8. Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old yeast or with the yeast of malice and evil but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’
As the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the doorpost secured exemption, for the Israelites, from the destroying angel, so the blood of Christ secures exemption, for us, from the destroying stroke of divine justice.
Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Jesus died to redeem us from sin,
So you go to the gospels to read the account of the Passover, and fascinatingly, the gospels go for completely different emphases…
b. Christ dies at the moment of the Passover celebration. (John 19:13-14)
In John’s account Jesus is being tried on the Passover preparation day. Jesus is actually executed on the same day that the Jews sit down to remember God’s great rescue.
13. ‘When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside. He sat down on the judge’s bench in a place called the Stone Pavement (but in Hebrew it is called Gabbatha). 14. It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about six in the morning. Then he told the Jews, “Here is your king!”’
So John has Pilot interrogating Jesus on the morning of the Passover, which would mean Jesus was crucified that afternoon. Which would mean that it was really as the Jews were sitting down for Passover meal, remembering the great judgment and rescue, there was an even greater judgment and rescue taking place right at that very same moment. There is a lovely symmetry there.
c. Christ establishes a memorial celebration feast (Luke 22:14-120, Exodus 6:6-7)
Now, what then do we make of the meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the night before his death? Lets go back and look at look at Luke 22:7:
‘7. Then the Day of Unleavened Bread came when the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us, so we can eat it.”
9. “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked Him.
10. “Listen,” he said to them, “when you’ve entered the city, a man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him into the house he enters. 11. Tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12. Then he will show you a large, furnished room upstairs. Make the preparations there.”
13. So they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.’
Now you will see the confusion …
14. ‘When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15. Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17. Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”’
What about the symbolism of the wine? Well one thing (among the many things) that had been added to the Passover meal by Jewish tradition to make it more elaborate over the years, as well as the lamb’s blood, the lamb roasted, the bitter herbs – at Passover meal there were four cups of wine. The four drinks of wine were all based on Exodus 6:6-7.
6. “Therefore tell the Israelites: I am Yahweh, and (CUP ONE) I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and (CUP TWO) free you from slavery to them. (CUP THREE) I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. 7. (CUP FOUR) I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.”
We will see in a second when Jesus drinks the wine, he is symbolically saying, “Those cups are now obsolete.”
And so the theory has been, that at the meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples, there were four cups of wine to drink. Along with the lamb and bitter herbs. And they ate those.
Luke 22: verse 20
20. In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by my blood; it is shed for you.”
There’s a new lamb’s blood shed for many. There’s a new covenant established.
The last covenant/last contract – was about freedom from slavery to Egypt.
The new covenant/new contract – is about freedom from slavery to sin.
I was trapped in sin under the judgement of God – under the death sentence. Someone else’s blood has been shed in my place. (Like a lamb’s blood was shed for the first born in Israel) a lamb’s blood has been shed in my place. See, none of us are as pure as the driven snow. For all of us, when the microscope is turned on us, as it has been turned on him, we will be found wanting before God.
There are bits in my past that I profoundly regret. There’s a judge who will, at our death, pronounce all of us guilty. But some of us will be free. Free because blood was shed in our place. Jesus’ blood was shed in our place. And the promise for us is that we will drink this fruit of the vine with Jesus in the father’s kingdom.
Look at sentence 22…
19. And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
And Jesus is saying, symbolically, “My body will be broken and given for you.” The focus of this Passover weekend is now not on the old rescue. The focus of this Passover weekend is now to be on the new rescue.
Which is why Christians have rightly dropped the lamb, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs.
But what is Jesus saying when he says, ‘Take this is my body’? He is saying, ‘Feed on my body. Be dependent on my body broken for you. And remember me – eat this meal in remembrance of me.’
8. Getting your perspective right: Exodus is a physical metaphor to help us grasp a greater spiritual judgment and rescue
I am hoping that having grasped this big picture framework of the meal, in which the Last Supper was set, we will have a deeper sense of what Jesus was teaching that day. I hope we will have a backdrop to grasp better the even greater rescue.
I think the exodus is a physical metaphor to help us grasp the even greater judgment and rescue that God brings us in Jesus, a judgment on Jesus and a rescue for us.
It is that message that we will attempt to communicate to our children – when they ask about the meaning of Passover.