Last time we covered three lessons of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. Another of many lessons that can be learned from this season is that of readiness to move on with being free. (NKJV will be used throughout.)
Exodus 12:11-17 – And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now 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 the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat–that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance.
Exodus 12:31-42 – Then he [Pharaoh] called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the Lord as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.”
And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, having their kneading bowls bound up in their clothes on their shoulders. Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds–a great deal of livestock. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves. Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years–on that very same day–it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
This Exodus was not without opposition or trials Witness Ex. 14:9-10 “So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon. 10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.”
Why did God allow the opposition to rise up? He explains it all to Moses even before they camp in 14:1-4. “Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
Not only does God allow it, He literally makes sure the opposition happens! God Himself sets Pharaoh and his invincible chariots against Israel. But He also give Moses the reason: “To gain honor over Pharaoh and his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.”
Naturally the modern/postmodern mind recoils at that sort of bloodthirsty way of gaining honour in the sight of the nations. My mind sure does. We may be convinced by the argument that right does not make right – and it truly doesn’t. When the initial shock wears off, however, there comes a realization that right does not usually win the day without strong backup from might, either.
The lesson for Christians striving to walk with Jesus is similar, but different. It is similar in that God intends opposition to our work on Jesus’ behalf to gain honour and glory for Him over the opposition.
It is different, however, in that the opposition is not going to be thwarted by mighty miracles that rain terror upon our enemies from on high as it was at the Red Sea or the prior plagues in Egypt. The enemy is twofold: sin within and sin without.
God provides some of the trials to show us the effect of sin within. For instance, the appearance of the Egyptian army brought out the worst in the Israelites, as did every single trial they faced afterward. Trials will tend to bring us face-to-face with our own ineffective and counterproductive ways of dealing with problems. They will bring to the surface the various habits that we might call “character defects” or “wrongheadedness” in situations that could embarrass us before other believers. Being taken down a notch or two in front of others can have a salubrious effect if it eventually helps us become more tolerant or forgiving of the inevitable shortcomings of others.
Besides, who really needs to carry the burden of perfection anyway? It’s lonely being the only one who is perfect in all his or her ways. Failure, if handled well, leads to greater grace toward self and toward others. Believe it or not, our failure brings growth that eventually brings glory to God – so long as we do not give up. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews puts it this way (Heb. 12:9-14), “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
My little brother, with his military training, might have put it this way, “Suck it up, princess, no pain, no gain.”
The Apostle Peter puts it this way (1 Pet. 1:3-9), Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.”
This is a journey to a glorious salvation, with trials along the way to build, purify and test the genuineness of our faith. How do you like that, manufacturing and quality control all in one process!
But it’s more than just building us up for our own good! It also glorifies God! Peter talks about another aspect (1 Pet. 3:13-18), “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”
By following His example, especially when unjustly persecuted, we also glorify Him. Peter continues by saying (1 Pet. 4:1-2), “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” For Peter, this leads to an inescapable conlusion:
(1 Pet. 4:4-19) “In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Just as in the Exodus, judgment and journey happen together in our living-out of Jesus’ salvation in our lives. Have you noticed where judgment, suffering and journey lead to in Peter’s thinking? Exactly where they do for Jesus, Paul and the writer of Hebrews: Love for one another as displayed in mutual service and good works. Even Peter was aware of spiritual gifts for service.
This journey is not a lonely one. God has called out, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, an entire people who journey together, even though they are not necessarily together in time and space. The writer of Hebrews calls them “a great cloud of witnesses” those who have gone on before us. We need to live worthy of their example so that we all glorify God together, as His family should.
In that way we can join the people who rejoiced so loudly and proudly for their deliverance in Ex. 15:11-18.
“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation. “The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O Lord, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”
Has this passage really been fully fulfilled? Notice what Peter says (1 Pet 1:10-16), Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things which angels desire to look into. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
We have the salvation that even Moses and Miriam, Israel’s first official prophets, proclaimed in Israel’s first salvation song. Let’s be about the job of bringing glory to God in whatever form that ends up taking in our lives. Let’s continue that journey together, in love and mutual service.