Sermon for Sunday, June 6th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Exo 12:29-51 ESV] 29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” 33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. 43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
New Testament reading:
[Eph 2:11-13 ESV] 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands– 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
[Jhn 19:31-37 ESV] 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness–his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth–that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
The book of Exodus is an epic story. And this section in particular reads as well as any novel. If the story here is not interesting to you, you’re not paying attention! Great things are happening! The great Lord has come down and brought death the firstborn of Egypt and has brought deliverance to the people of Israel. And the account is full of details. It very much reads as the historical fact that it is, and not as an invented story like Homer’s Odyssey or the Illiad.
The details are indeed important, but I’ll be focusing on a couple major elements in this passage. First we have “The Death of the Firstborn” and then there is “The Exodus” itself.
I. The Death of the Firstborn
We’ve had 9 other plagues, and we’ve had a warning of this final plague. And the Israelites are protected by the sign of the blood of lamb on the doorposts and lintels.
Now finally comes the 10th plague. And its “a biggie.”
It is the terrifying death of all of the firstborn of Egypt. The text tells us that it is not only the firstborn of Pharaoh who God puts to death, but the firstborn all Egypt, even the captive in the dungeon. Death comes to each family, from the very highest to the very lowest. Death even comes to he firstborn of the livestock!
B. A Great Cry
And because of this, we read, “there was a great cry in Egypt.”
When a single child dies it brings mourning and grief to a whole community. It is remembered for years to come. For the parents of the child especially, it is never forgotten. The death of your own child is perhaps the most difficult event that anyone ever experiences.
If such is the effect of the death of one child, how much greater is the effect of the death of all of the firstborn in Egypt. “And there was A GREAT CRY in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.”
C. Defending God?
It is common here for pastors and theologians to defend God against the charge that he is a moral monster; that God is in the wrong for his role in these events. Has He not committed infanticide? And later on, when the Canaanites are wiped out, does God not committed genocide?
How can we defend a God who kills the firstborn of Egypt? Is God a moral monster?
First, two verses come to my mind:
Romans 9:20 – “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
Job 36:23 – “Who has prescribed for him his way, or what can say ‘You have done wrong’?”
So, the Bible teaches, we are not in a position to question God or His actions.
But also, we must understand that the moral law applies TO MAN. The ten commandments are God’s law FOR MAN. So it does not follow from from “thou shalt not kill” that “He shalt not kill.” God has that prerogative. He can do as He pleases.
And, in fact, by definition, whatever God does is right. He is His own standard; there is nothing above him. And we are not to judge God by the moral standards he gives for man.
What if the rook on your chessboard judged that you could only walk in straight lines? Or if the Bishop thought you could only move in diagonals. These are rules for the pieces, not for the player of the game himself!
Likewise, God’s law is for man and does not apply to God. We cannot and should notjudge Him according to that law.
Ultimately, for those that judge God, it essentially boils down to this: they DON’T LIKE what God has done. The anti-theist, the hater of God, sets his own standard by which to judge God. We are to do nothing of the same.
We could say that God has a greater plan in the death of the firstborn of Egypt; that is, the deliverance of His people, the Israelites. But ultimately we don’t need to defend God’s actions. He does as He pleases and we are not always privy to the reasons why.
II. The Exodus
So from the great cry of the Egyptians we now come to the Exodus. And it is from this leaving—the exodus of the people from Egypt—that we get the title of the book. Now it wasn’t know as “Exodus” in Hebrew. They knew each scroll by the first word on it. Genesis was “bereshit” or “in the beginning” and Exodus was “shemot” or “these are the NAMES … of the sons of Israel.”
Now one of the most critical points regarding the exodus is that we have Pharaoh telling them to leave. They do not sneak out or battle their way out; they are forced out. This fulfills God’s word that this would happen in just this way. And it shows God’s victory over the hard-hearted Pharaoh. His heart is not softened—no—but its hardness is yet used for the plan of God. God’s people will now be free, and will be free IN ORDER TO worship Him.
The departure, the exodus, as forewarned, is in haste. The dough is not leavened, and no other provisions have been prepared. So they must eat unleavened bread. They must eat it together.
This passover bread is then a symbol of their unity, something all the people of Israel participate in, something ONLY the people of Israel participate in.
We find in our account:
43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him.
All of the people including in the nation of Israel are to participate, though not all are true believers. Some, like in Korah’s rebellion in Numbers chapter 16, will prove themselves not to be followers of God.
It is a mixed multitude. There are descendants of Israel and there are people of other parentage who are now included in the nation of Israel. And there are believers and unbelievers. It is a mixed multitude in multiple ways.
But it is, for the first time, a nation. Never before had their been a nation of God’s people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have had modest armies of people on their side and perhaps even some land, but they were always sojourners in a land not fully their own. Now we have the nation of Israel, a people together, but not yet with land. God promised them land and it will come but not for a long time yet.
This nation, this mixed multitude, is indeed a multitude. SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND men besides women and children. Perhaps 2 million people in total. Plus livestock, both flocks and herds.
We see in this number God’s blessing of them through their multiplication. What was just a small band when they first came to Egypt is now millions of individuals. The plans of the previous Pharaoh to suppress their numbers is a plan that failed entirely. God has greatly blessed the Israelites even while in slavery.
And those who doubt so much of the Scriptures also commonly doubt this number – 600,000 men besides women and children. They say, “That is impossible.” “There is no way that large of a group traveled across the desert.” To this, I say, “It is most certainly possible … with the Lord.”
If God can bring all of these plagues then God can also bring all of these people across the desert.
We’re not told to pick and chose what we this is reasonable in the Scriptures. We are to believe all of it, for it is the Word of God.
The Exodus happened. And it happened exactly as the Bible says that it happened.
God saved a great mixed multitude. And Jesus Christ saved, for all eternity, a great mixed multitude of Jews and Gentiles, barbarians (like myself), Scythians (from the steppes of Russia), slaves, and free.
B. No Broken Bones.
In Christ’s death we find in the New Testament an interesting point.
In John’s Gospel:
34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness–his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth–that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
Where is this prophecy?
It is here in our Exodus text.
The text apparently moves on from the unleavened bread to the roasted lamb of passover.
43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.
The bones of the passover lamb were not broken. And the bones of Jesus Christ who died on the cross as our passover lamb were not broken.
Psalm 34:19-20 also has the prophecy:
[Psa 34:19-20 ESV] 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
So we see again Christ displayed in the Exodus.
What then of applications for us today? There are many that we’ve looked at so far in the Exodus. So I’ve tried to find two new ones.
A. God preserves a remnant for Himself.
Throughout the Scriptures we follow the remnant of God. His people, who are brought alive through the destruction around them. Noah and his family through the flood, Moses and the people through the plagues. The Israelites through the Babylonian Captivity.
And ultimately God preserves His remnant through Jesus Christ by whom He claims His people as “MINE,” delivers them from the slavery not of Egypt but of sin, and separates them for a life holy unto Him to worship him. God has done this.
B. It is certainly possible with the Lord.
Now, earlier I had said of the 600,000 traveling through the desert that “it is certainly possible with the Lord.”
This is a theme we should continue on. It is certainly possible with the Lord.
First, we should take that attitude to everything of the Scriptures, not doubting anything God has said but realizing that all things, all miraculous things, are possible because we have God who is in control of His creation.
It is certainly possible with the Lord. We should take this mindset into the greatest of difficulties in our world.
The man, the woman, who refuses to come to Christ, and we pray that they may know the Lord as we know Him, and know His peace in the forgiveness of sins, and to know His love. They refuse to come to Him, but we pray for their conversion, for miraculous change in their heart. And we pray this because “it is certainly possible with the Lord.”
Even the great enemy of the church, the persecutor Saul, was changed in an instant. It is certainly possible with the Lord.
And those difficult circumstances in your life.
Do you have 27 hours worth of work to do in your 24 hour day? Pray to the Lord and work with joy in him, and it is certainly possible that tasks will fall together and even give you a time for rest.
Do you have a challenge in life that seems insurmountable? Perhaps there is a person, a relationship that is broken seemingly beyond repair. Remember, It is certainly possible with the Lord that this relationship may be healed.
Let us pray that God works mightily in our lives, making the impossible possible, and blessing us as the remnant of His people. Amen.