Pastor Sherry’s message for September 6, 2020

Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14

The story is told of an old granny lady who had decided that Christmas shopping had just gotten to be too much for her.  Now she still wanted to do something nice for her kids, grands, nieces, nephews, etc., so she decided to send each a nice Christmas card with a $50 Visa card inside.   Granny selected the Christmas cards, addressed the envelopes, added stamps, and deposited them at the post office, innocently assuming she had taken care of Christmas gifts for all of her family in a way that could not help but please each one.  The problem, however, was that–being a little forgetful–she had neglected to include the Visa cards (probably also forgot where she had put them), and had happily written next to her signature, “Merry Christmas!  Go get your own presents.”   We laugh, but this could all too easily be any one of us!  The intention was love, but the result was not.

When I was in college, my school had a foreign language requirement. There were 3 prerequisites:  (1) You had to be able to read it; (2) You had to know the grammar, correct sentence structure, and vocabulary; (3) And then you had to demonstrate you could speak it by passing an interview with the foreign language department professors.

I managed to make it through the first courses, but put the speaking part off until my Senior year…YIKES!  The first day of class, a stereotypical French woman came into class (complete with beret, tight slim skirt with side split, fishnet stockings, and spiked heels), propped herself on the teacher’s desk, told us we could not speak English for the remainder of the semester, and asked us, in French, to respond to the question, “What is love?”  Before I had even begun to formulate an answer in English, then could laboriously translate it into French, she had gone on to the next deep question.  I knew my goose was cooked! 

Praise God I survived conversational French because I paid a linguistically brilliant underclassman to tutor me.  I paid him with coffee and a piece of pie (this was 1967 and he was hungry) to talk with me in French for an hour 2-3 times a week.  By the time he finished with me, I was thinking and dreaming in French!

But I have never forgotten that French professor’s question, “What is love?”  Our Scriptures today give us some good answers to that timeless question.  Our Old Testament lesson comes from Exodus 12:1-14.  Back in Ex 3:7+, God had told Moses:  “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.  That was God’s promise…He would create the situation that would compel the stubborn Pharaoh to let His people go.  Now the Hebrews had been in Egypt about 400 years—long enough for the Canaanites to have time to come to love the true God, which they never did.  So God was finally ready to rescue the Israelites from Egyptian slavery with 10 plagues.

Each plague was actually a put down of some Egyptian god.  Yahweh had declared war on the gods of Egypt:

(1)1st, He turned the Nile to blood—the fish died and no one could drink from it.  They so depended on the river for their water supply and commerce that they equated it with life.  God was saying to them, I, not your river god, am the source of all life.

  • 2nd, He sent a superabundance of frogs.  Seven days after turning the Nile to blood, frogs left the polluted river and invaded the Egyptian homes in huge numbers.  Now the Egyptians equated frogs with evil spirits.  God was saying to them, I can produce animal pests and your numerous gods of nature cannot prevent this.
  •   Similarly, out of dust Moses tosses into the air, God produces 3rd, a plague of lice and 4th, of biting flies.  Essentially God is asking Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Why aren’t your gods countering and destroying these pests? They aren’t able to do what I can do.
  • 5th, God sends disease on their cattle, rams, sheep, and goats, many of which die.  The Egyptians had gods for each of these animals.  But God is saying, I have complete control over animal life, not Osirus, your bull god, or Apis your ram god.
  • 6th, He afflicted the animals that remained—and the people as well–with boils.  Even Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t prevent breaking out with them. God is saying only I have power over physical health.
  • 7th, He sends hail made of ice clumps and fire.  Egypt normally gets very little rain and fire is a sign of God’s judgment.  Thus God is saying, I—not Hephaistos, your god of fire or Porphry, your god of rain—have complete authority over forces of nature.
  • 8th, God sends locusts to eat up any vegetation left over, then sends them to drown in the Red Sea.  Egypt’s gods of nature are helpless to prevent this infestation.  God is saying, I can raise up hordes of any creature and I can destroy them as I will.
  • By now, the Egyptian economy is in ruins, but still Pharaoh will not let his slave labor go free.  God then sends the 9th plague, 3 days of complete darkness—except over where the Israelites live.  God is saying, Your sun god, Re, is powerless before Me.
  • Finally, God sends the 10th plague–the death of the firstborn, person and animal. They believed their god, Horus, was the god of life.  They also believed Pharaoh was divine. God is saying, Not so fast, My Friend!  Yahweh is the giver of life and He can take it away when it is in rebellion against Him.

This brings us to the Passover:  God intends to take the life of every 1st born.  Those who love Him, however, can and will be spared.

They are to select a perfect male lamb less than 1 year old; they are then to slaughter it on the 14th of Nisan; and paint their door frames with its blood.

The blood of the lamb will be the sign that they are true believers and their lives will be spared. They were to remain inside their homes, eating the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. This was a hasty meal that predated “take out.”  It meant that they would soon be free to travel.  The first born of those with no blood over their doors succumbed to the angel of death.  By the next morning, all of Egypt wanted the Israelites to be gone!

This is love!  God provided a way for the angel of death to distinguish Israelites from Egyptians.  While every house in Egypt had a dead person in it, the blood of the Lamb signaled to death, pass over, pass on by those who love the true Lord of all.  This event broke the back of Pharaoh’s resistance.  He finally decided let the God’s people go.  And the Egyptians were so glad to see them leave that they gifted them with gold and silver (God’s provision of reparations/back wages owed).

The historic Jewish Passover finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus—it foreshadows or predicts Jesus’ blood shed for us on the Cross.  He too was a perfect male lamb–John the Baptist calls Him (John1:29)…the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus was without sin.  If He had sinned, He would not have been eligible to be our sinless Substitute, our Savior.  Furthermore, He was God, the only Son of God, so His blood was essentially the blood of God.  Paul tells the leaders of the Ephesian Church in Acts 20:28àBe shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.No mere person would have been capable of atoning for our sins.  Additionally, Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf was totally acceptable to His Father.  The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus is the once and for all perfect sacrifice for our sins.  Peter, on trial before the Sanhedrin, testifies in Acts 4:12 that Salvation is found in no one else [meaning Jesus] for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  John tells us in 1 John 3: This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

So what is love?  The 10 plagues and the Passover formed God’s strategy for motivating a despot to let go of a free labor force of around 2 million people.  The plagues and the Passover demonstrate how far God will go to redeem those He loves.  Jesus’ death on the cross proves the same truth again:  Our God has died an undeserved but agonizing death to obtain our freedom from sin and mortality.  Like His Father before Him, He has gone to extreme lengths to redeem us.

As the apostle John tells us, (1 John 4:10)–this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  If I could go back in time, I would tell my French Conversation professor, “Your question can be answered a number of ways…But the best and most complete answer to that is Jesus Christ loves me and you so much that He died so you and I could have abundant life!

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory thru our Lord Jesus Christ!  Alleluia, alleluia!

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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