The innocent dying for the guilty has transforming power.
I’m indebted to Pastor Voddie Baucham for our first 2 truths today.
Kill the lamb.
Apply the blood.
To Pastor’s Voddie’s truths, lets add 3 more.
Trust God’s word.
Go out to serve.
- Kill the Lamb. vv. 5-6
Kill the lamb? This sounds archaic to our modern, western ears. This seems grotesque, ugly, brutal, extreme. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it. It hurts our hearts. Kill the lambs? How many were killed by “the whole assembly”?
Later in Exodus 12:37 we learn that there were 600,000 Jewish men who were enslaved in Egypt. Likely there was more than one man per household when you consider extended families – fathers, grandfathers, adult sons, uncles, nephews. And small families joined together with other small families for the sacrifice. So, there weren’t 600,000 lambs sacrificed. But there were tens of thousands of lambs sacrificed at that first Passover. Imagine the amount of death, destruction, brutality, bloodshed.
Why does God require a sacrifice? Why should an innocent animal die in order to protect a people?
This extreme brutality of the sacrifice shows us the extreme atrocity of our sin.
A 12th Century Jewish Rabbi, Maimonides, in a book, Guide for the Perplexed, wrote, “The significance of the blood in the sacrificial system was to teach the people the gravity of their sins.”
It wasn’t just the Egyptians, the oppressors, who were guilty of sin against a holy God. You see, the sins of the Jewish people – even though they were the oppressed – made them just as guilty in the sight of God as the sins of the Egyptians. And God is never casual about sin. He wants people to see how horrible it is so they will turn from it.
When an innocent lamb must die to rescue the guilty, the person being rescued – the person whose sin is being atoned for – is meant to think, “If it requires the death of the innocent Lamb to save me, then my sin is more awful than I could possibly imagine. So, I repent!”
The extreme barbarity of the sacrifice points out the extreme depravity of our sin.
Yes. Killing the lamb is brutal. Yes. It’s bloody. Yes. It sounds strange to our sensitive ears. But the extreme awfulness of the death of the lamb so this deliverance could take place shows these Hebrews the extreme ugliness of their sin.
Kill the lamb.
- Apply the blood. v. 7
When the Jewish people first immigrated to Egypt, they likely lived in tents. But over time they learned how to construct houses – probably like the Egyptian houses – with doors. And so the command from the LORD comes.
The blood applied is not for the LORD. It’s an opportunity for the people to demonstrate their faith in the LORD. God says, “Dip the hyssop into the lamb’s blood…” Hyssop is a plant kind of like our lavender plant. The small leaves would collect the blood so it could be applied.
Imagine you’re the Jewish first-born in the family and you’re learning that God said, “I want you to apply the blood on the doorposts and lintel or else the first born will die tonight.” You’re thinking: “Ho about the whole house! I don’t want the destroyer to enter this house. Hey dad, how about we apply the blood everywhere!”
But all you need is to apply the blood across the lintel, down one side, and then down the other.
I’ve heard pastors say that this blood on the top and the sides of the door is to remind us of the cross. But that’s never been quite convincing for me. The application of the blood kind of has the shape of the cross, but not fully.
In my study this week, I came across a quote from a 13th Century Jewish scholar, Rabbi Hezekiah ben Manoah. He wrote a commentary on the Torah, including Exodus. He says, “The blood on the entrances of the homes of the Israelites should form the equivalent of the Hebrew letter chet… [which is] a symbol of the word chayyim, [which means] life.”
Some Bible students even call that Hebrew letter, Chet, the “letter of life.” When you put the blood on the doorpost of your house, you are obeying the LORD who will protect life there. You’re not going to have death.
So, it could be that God is saying, “If you want the death of the innocent to atone for the sin of the guilty, then apply the blood to make the sign of life on the door of your house. And because of My patience and My mercy, the destroyer will pass over your house. Everyone inside will be safe.”
When the destroyer sees the blood on the door in the shape of the symbol for life, He sees the faith of the ones inside. The innocent has died for the guilty. So, He passes over. But if the blood is not applied, the firstborn will die.
Apply the blood.
- Trust God’s word. vv. 12-13
In the homes of some of these Egyptians were babies, toddlers, and children. Why did they have to die? If an extended family was living together, a grandfather in a home could have been the firstborn of his parents and living with a son in that home who was his firstborn also living with a little grandchild in the home who is a firstborn. So, some of these Egyptian families suffered multiple deaths that night.
What did all these firstborn people, including children, have to do with the oppression and stubbornness of Pharoah? It’s not their responsibility that the Jewish people were slaves.
I was talking about this with a friend this week who has roots in the Middle East. Pastor Juri Amari said, “In the West, we are so radically individualistic. We pretty much reject the idea of communal responsibility. But in the Middle East, people understand that responsibility is collective and that guilt must be shared. The slavery of the Jewish people brought benefits to every Egyptian.
Remember, Egypt had oppressed the people of God. All the people enjoyed the benefits. They allowed Pharoah to go unchecked, unchallenged, unopposed. So, all the Egyptians were complicit in the oppression of the Jews. God holds them all responsible!
Whether we like it or not – whether we agree with Him or not, the LORD’s sovereign plan is perfect and good. As Pastor Joe said, “God has the power to give life. God has the power to take life. No life starts without Him. No life stops without Him.”
So, if He sees all of the Egyptians as complicit with Pharoah and holds them accountable, then He is right and good and just in doing so.
Back in Exodus 4, before the signs and wonders even began, God told Moses to warn Pharoah.
You won’t let Israel, My firstborn, go? Then your firstborn will die. Out of His patience and mercy God gave Pharoah and the Egyptians 9 opportunities to repent. But they would not. So now, the Hero – the LORD God – who isn’t always in a hurry is about to hurry up… in His sovereignty to bring justice.
Now, if I were a Jewish firstborn back in that day and I heard that all the firstborn were about to die, I’d be tempted to be terrified. But don’t miss the promise of deliverance given to God’s people.
13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
God says, “You don’t have to be terrified. Kill the lamb and apply the blood and no plague will befall you to destroy you.”
If the people of Israel will kill the lamb, apply the blood, and stay inside because they trust God’s word, they will be safe.
Trust God’s word.
- Go out to serve. vv. 30-31
The LORD had told His people, “Eat unleavened bread” (v. 9). Why? You’re going to be in a hurry to leave Egypt. You’re not going to have time for the leaven – the yeast – to cause the dough to rise. And eat bitter herbs (v. 9) to remind you of the bitterness of your slavery and servitude and oppression in Egypt and how you want to hurry and leave it all behind. And eat with your belt fastened, with sandals on your feet, and with your staff in your hand (v. 11). Why? You have to be ready to go; to hurry; to leave Egypt; to leave the false gods; to leave your slavery behind.
God, the Hero, who isn’t always in a hurry, has hurried up and wants His people to hurry up. He’s saying, “I Am the One who did this to demonstrate that none of the Egyptian gods can stand before Me. I Am the One who did this to demonstrate that only I have the power of life and death. I Am the One who did this so that you would know, trust, and serve Me, the LORD, the great I Am, the One who is full of patience and mercy but who is also sovereign and just.
Go out to serve… the LORD!
- Remember together. v. 14
This chapter is filled with instructions on when and how the Jewish people are to celebrate the Passover. Every spring, gather your family, kill the lamb, eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs. And when your kids ask, “Why are we doing this?” tell the story of how I, the LORD, rescued your ancestors so you could be free to serve Me!
The Passover meal was an act of worship.
At CVC Brunswick last week, Pastor Josh pointed out, “In the original [Hebrew] language, the… line reads ‘and the people bowed and bowed.’ Two different words are used in verse 27 for ‘bowed’ with different emphases. One word emphasizes the external (bowing the head) and the other emphasizes the internal (bowing the heart).”
When the lamb was killed, the blood applied, the people trusted God’s word and were set free, they were transformed inside and out!
When you are set free by God, it will change you externally. God’s grace changes your habits, your lifestyle, your use of time and money. And when you are set free by God, it will change you internally. God’s grace changes your desires, your joys, your hopes and dreams.
A bowed head without a bowed heart is just religion – external only, just going through the motions. God does not want this kind of relationship with you. He won’t have it. A bowed heart without a bowed head is just emotion – internal only, just temporary hype. But a bowed head AND a bowed heart is true devotion – an internal AND an external response to God which leads to transformation and real worship.
God has a Lamb for you, too. When Jesus began His public ministry, His cousin, John, introduced him, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world“ (John 1:29).
The tens of thousands of lambs who died at the first Passover appointing to the Ultimate Lamb, who would die once for all for your sins and mine. In I Corinthians 5:7 we read, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Over and over in scripture, Jesus is called the Lamb.
For those of us who may still be struggling with the deaths of those innocent animals and the deaths of all the firstborn in Egypt and wonder, “What kind of God would do such a thing?“ don’t overlook the fact that God is not some merciless dispenser of justice. His justice is mingled with mercy. And because of that, God’s own Firstborn and God’s own Lamb had to die. It was the only way for any of us to be saved. And that means that God Himself knows what it is to suffer, to experience injustice.
Kill the Lamb. Well, we really don’t have to kill the Lamb because our Father in heaven has already done that by sending His Son into the world to give His life as a ransom so that the world could be saved through Him.
But even though it was God, the Father, who crushed His Son, we did participate in His death. I’m the guilty one, and so are you. Jesus was the Innocent One. When He was on trial for His life, no one could find any fault in Him. He was qualified to be the Lamb of God because He was unblemished. I Peter 1:18-19 says, “You were ransomed… not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” He died in our place. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. My sins, and yours, killed Him. Kill the lamb.
Apply the blood. Remember, in ancient Israel, the blood was applied on the doorposts and the lintel to make the letter Chet, the Hebrew letter for life.
When Jesus walked this planet, He had the audacity to say about Himself, “I am the Door“ in John 10:7. And just a few verses later, He said, “I have come that you might have life.” He’s the Door, defeating death and bringing life.
When the blood of Jesus is applied on the doorposts and the lintel of your heart, death is defeated and you get eternal life forevermore. Apply the blood.
Believe God’s word. In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.“ Believe! Not just in your head, but also from your heart. Trust. Rely. Depend on. Believe God‘s word.
Go out to serve. When someone innocent sacrifices themselves for the guilty, everything changes. You don’t stay in Egypt. You don’t stay in slavery. You leave the world behind. You leave your sin. You forsake it. And just like the ancient Jews were in a hurry to leave their Egypt and slavery and false gods behind, so we, too, must be in a hurry to repent and to live in spiritual freedom.
If there’s no “go out to serve“ in your life, then you have to answer tough questions: “Have I ever truly appreciated and received the benefits of the death of the Lamb? Has the blood of Jesus truly been applied to my life? Have I truly believed God‘s word?”
Remember those soldiers in the Japanese POW camp who saw the innocent willingly die to save them? They were transformed. If you’ve not been truly transformed, then you haven’t really grasped the significance of what Jesus has done for you. Go out and serve.
Professor and Biblical Scholar D. A. Carson illustrates the power of the blood of the Lamb.
Picture two Jewish men the day before the first Passover in Exodus 12. They’ve been living as slaves in captivity in Egypt all their lives. Their names? Smith and Brown, remarkably Jewish names!
They’re having a sobering conversation there where they’ve been living in the land of Goshen. And Smith asks Brown, “Are you a little nervous about what’s going to happen tonight?”
And Brown says, “Well, God told us what to do through His servant, Moses. We don’t have to be nervous. Have you slaughtered the lamb and sprinkled the two doorposts with blood, and put blood on the lintel? Have you done that? Are you going to eat the Passover meal with your whole family? Are you all ready and packed to go?”
And Smith answers, “Of course. I’ve done all that. But I’m still scared. Think of all the things that have happened around here – flies, frogs, hail, and the river turning to blood. It’s been awful. And now there’s a threat of the firstborn being killed? Maybe you’re not worried as much as me because you have 3 sons – if one dies you’ll have 2 left. I’ve only got 1 son. And I love my boy. Moses said that the angel of death is passing through tonight. I know Moses told us what the LORD said. So, I’ve put the blood on the door. But I’m terrified. What’s going to happen tonight?”
And Brown responds, “Bring it on. I’m trusting the promises of God.”
Well, that night the angel of death swept through the land. Which of those two Jews lost his son?
The answer, of course, is neither. Death doesn’t pass over them because of the intensity or the strength or the purity or the clarity of their faith. Death passed over them because of the blood of the lamb. That’s what saves. The blood silences the accuser and sets us free.
It’s not the strength of our faith that saves us – that forgives us. It’s the object of our faith. It’s the blood of the Lamb!
Remember together. Just as God gave the ancient Israelis instructions on how to celebrate that first Passover, we’ve been given instructions on how to celebrate the death of the Lamb of God in our behalf. Their celebration of the Passover was given to them to help them and us see the Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover. Their feast was meant to point everyone to ours. Today, we call it the Lord’s Supper. For 2000 years Christians have remembered together.