The Passover sacrifice
by Glenn Pettit
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25 "It will come to pass when you come to the land which the LORD will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service.
26 "And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?'
27 "that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.'" So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
If you had to explain to your kids why you go to church every Sunday (or whenever you go), what would you say? Would you say "It's just something we do"? Or perhaps "Because it's what your grandparents did, and it's expected of us, too"? Maybe you'd say something like "Because I want you to learn about being a proper Christian." There are all sorts of reasons that people use to justify to themselves and their children why they should go to church and participate in corporate worship. Another popular reason spoken among evangelical Christians is that Christians should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), or something similar like "It's what the first Christians did, and so we know it's the right thing to do." I think that for most church-going Christians, going to Sunday services has just become a habit--either in their lifetime or in previous generations--and so, while they may indeed be learning and may be training up some of their children in righteous living, they go to church mostly as a matter of rote, not truly as a matter of choice.
For many who observe Sunday services, the Bible verses they come to for support are often places like the book of Acts or Paul's letters to the Corinthian church, or perhaps some look at when Jesus says we should gather in His name. (Matthew 18:20) But today we should to go back to the beginning of organized worship of the Lord, which is found in Exodus. Here we will see that the Passover is the true beginning of the church, and it is the place where we see a deeply-rooted desire for corporate worship.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.
22 "And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.
23 "For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.
24 "And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever."
When the destroying angel came to Egypt to kill the firstborn--" from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals" (Exodus 11:5)--there was to be no discriminating between the people of Israel and the people and creatures of Egypt. Death would pass among the whole land of Egypt, and Israel would only be spared if they prepared their hearts and their homes according to what the Lord prescribed through Moses: the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. Anyone who did NOT perform the sacrifice would find death taking all the firstborn in their house.
Think about that for a moment: The Lord chose to save only those who themselves chose to BE saved.
10 "So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build,
11 "houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant--when you have eaten and are full--
12 "then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
And having been saved by their service to the Lord, the Israelites were to honor the Lord and perform that same service every year, passing along the memory of salvation from generation to generation. They had once been saved from slavery by the mighty hand of God, and spared from death by obedience to God's Word, and so they would remember this and teach this to their children. The Israelites performed the Passover service so that everyone would remember the Mighty One who was the Lord their God. Also, because they knew they had saved themselves only by being obedient to God, their natural response was to praise the Lord who saved them.
1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying:
"I will sing to the LORD,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!
2 "The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
He is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father's God, and I will exalt Him."
Right now as I write this, there is a summer storm raging outside, and torrents of rain pelt the rooftops and are adding to already high water levels in the area rivers. It's quite possible there will be some flooding in some places around this part of the state. But I know that the Lord will not cause another Great Flood as He did in the days of Noah. God is longsuffering toward us, and He has promised never again to purge the world with water as He did back then. (Genesis 9:11) But another promise He has made that assures us of salvation even when He does return to judge and remake the world.
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
The Passover lamb of ancient days was a symbol of God's mercy and love for Israel, but even among the Israelites it became a rote practice among a nation that fell into unbelief and idolatry. But do you remember what was the first thing Israel did when they repented and returned to the worship of the Lord? The first thing they did was celebrate the Passover. The Passover was more important than all their other feasts and services because that is the moment when Israel as a people chose to follow the Lord their God, to obey Him and be saved by Him. That is the time when they were of one mind and one heart toward God, when they worshiped and praised God for His mighty works, when they truly knew that they were God's people and He was their God.
When we come together for corporate worship on Sundays, we would do well to learn from the Passover. We should understand that we don't just gather to hear a nice sermon or to sing pretty and uplifting songs. We don't just gather to celebrate the Eucharist or receive a pastor's blessing or prayer. We should remember that while God indeed chose us before we were even born, we also must choose God. And having made that choice and been saved by God's grace through faith in His Son, our Sunday assembly should be a time of whole-hearted worship for all that Jesus Christ has done and will do. When we go to church--whether in a home or in a basement or in a grand facade--we should come with hearts turned wholly toward the Lord our God who brought us each out of our own Egypt, the One who chose to save us when He might just as well have let us die with all the other rebellious and sinful people of the world. And when our children ask why we go to church, we can simply say, "We go to worship the living God who loves us so much He sent His only Son to be the Passover sacrifice for all mankind."
Holy Lord God, I feel sometimes as if I do not deserve all you do for me, especially not the death of Your Son Jesus. But in knowing that You love me with such abundant mercy, I see I have worth and my life has meaning in You. In Christ I am reborn, and in Christ I am saved. Your just judgment on my sins has been passed over because Your Son has called me home to You, because I believe--so wholeheartedly believe. And so, Father God, bless us this day with continued grace, pour down Your righteousness through our hearts and our hands. Let us live each day to the honor and glory and praise of the perfect and sinless Lamb of God who died that we might live. Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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