God has delivered the people from the bondage of Egypt. They have begun their massive Exodus - over two million people leaving the land that they had been salves in for the last 400 years.
We talked last week about this rite. You will run across mention of it quite a bit in the gospels.
Matt. 26:17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?"
Passover was the first day of a week-long holiday called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It commemorated the passing over of God's judgment, and their Exodus out of Egypt, when they had no leavened bread.
Exod. 12:39 And they baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
With the birth of each and every first-born, there was a choice to make. Redeem it or kill it. Devote it to God or send it to its death. This was a reminder that Pharaoh chose death for the Egyptian first-borns, but Israel chose devotion for theirs.
I like the example that the Lord uses:
Exod. 13:13 "But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck...
Every jackass had to be redeemed by a lamb or have its neck broken. Sound like the gospel to you? Donkeys are beasts of burden in the Scriptures. Jesus said,
Matt. 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Every one of us is a donkey, a jackass. And the only thing that ultimately keeps our necks from being broken is that we have been redeemed by the Lamb of God.
Titus 2:13-14 ...Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession...
Redemption or destruction. The choice is yours.
In verse 14, Moses tells the people,
Exod. 13:14 "And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' then you shall say to him, 'With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.
Moses tells them, that while the family celebrates this holiday, the time will come that your children will begin to question what you're doing. Be ready with an answer. "Son, we do this as a reminder of how God delivered us."
I have pondered this verse quite a bit this week. As our children get older, they begin to look for answers regarding our traditions. "Dad, why do we eat crackers and grape juice at church?" "Mom, why do we lift our hands during the singing?"
The answer should always be, "Because of what the Lord has done." "Because of what the Lord has said." "Because of what the Lord has commanded."
As the years passed, the children of Israel fell into idolatry. They had begun to worship Baal, and Ashtoreth. When their children asked, "Why are we doing this?", they certainly couldn't answer, "Because the Lord..."
Now, as you practice your holiday traditions, your children will also ask you questions that you might not be able to answer with "because of what the Lord..." Questions like,
"Dad, how come Santa Claus comes down the chimney on Jesus' birthday?" "Mom, why do we celebrate Easter with eggs and bunnies?" "Dad, how come we trick or treat on Halloween?"
When your son asks you in time to come, "What is this?", what will you tell them? Will you have an answer?
As you make decisions regarding your holiday traditions and your life's practices, remember that if you can't answer, "because of what the Lord...", then you have a decision to make. I encourage you to make a commitment (before they begin to ask) to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. Live in such a way that you always have an answer to everyone who asks why you do what you do.
God knew how unstable the faith of the Israelites was. He knew that if He led them into the land of the Philistines at this point, they would freak out. They'd run away back to Egypt.
Though they had seen the miracles of God, they did not have a lasting faith. The Bible tells us that...
Rom. 10:17 ...Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Time and again we see in the Bible that miracles don't produce lasting faith. Yet today's church expects to win people to faith with miracles. If they come, they won't be around for long. As soon as they see war, they will return to Egypt. The war between the spirit and the flesh, and spiritual warfare. If they join the army because of the miraculous benefits without knowing that they're going to see war, they'll go AWOL real quick.
Even Jesus experienced this with His disciples. In John 6,
John 6:2 ...A great multitude was following Him, because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.
He was healing all manner of their diseases. Then He fed these thousands of people to full with just five barley loaves and two fish. Miracles! Signs! Wonders! But by the end of the chapter,
John 6:66 ...Many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.
Faith comes by hearing the Word, not by seeing the miracles. We praise God for miracles when they happen, and give Him glory. But they don't increase our faith. The Bible tells us to
2Cor. 5:7 ...Walk by faith, not by sight
If there is one lesson to be learned from the Israelites in the book of Exodus, it is this: Don't walk by sight. Walk by faith.
Remember at the end of our study of the book of Genesis, we read that,
Gen. 50:24-26 ...Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you, and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, "God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here." So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
The people of Israel had passed down that promise - "When we are brought up out of Egypt, we must take the bones of Joseph back to the land promised to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
It was good tradition, but it had become more myth than anything. They didn't really believe that God would deliver them. It had just become words.
Now stop and apply this to your own life personally. Have the promises of God become just words to you? You know what the Bible says, but has it become mere tradition that doesn't affect the way you think, act, and perceive?
A cargo ship was sailing the sea towards Italy when a huge storm kicked up. After a day, the crew jettisoned the cargo. The third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard. Not being able to see the sun or the stars, they got hopelessly off course. Everyone had abandoned the hope of being saved.
But Paul the apostle was on that ship. God had previously ministered to him that he would stand before Caesar. Paul had that promise. So he stood up before the crew and passengers and shouted,
Acts 27:25 "...Keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told."
Paul believed God's promise to him. In the midst of despair, when all worldly hope was lost, Paul had faith in God's promise. He had the faith to stand up in a hopeless situation and boldly say, "I believe God." The Israelites on the other hand, had long since lost faith in God's promise. Which would you compare yourself to today?
God appeared before them as a pillar of cloud by day. He was giving them direction, saying, "This is the way, follow Me." We have that same cloud to follow today. You might be saying, "no we don't. I don't see any cloud." In John 14, Thomas said the same thing. Jesus had said,
John 14:4-6 "...You know the way where I am going." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life..."
Jesus was the cloud that the Israelites followed, and is the cloud that we are to follow today. 19 times in the gospels Jesus said, "Follow Me." We are to walk in the example He set for us.
Eph. 5:1-2 ...Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you...
The Lord also appeared as a pillar of fire by night. Why? Verse 21 says "to give them light." Again, we see Jesus in the pillar. John 1 says,
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness...
God has always been that light shining in darkness. Let us follow Him.