|THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
Series: Behold The Lamb - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 2, 2012
In first chapter of John’s gospel - John - the Apostle - records the account of the baptism of Jesus. A familiar scene. Yes?
John the Baptist is at the Jordan River preaching about repentance - turning from sin and turning towards God - preparing our hearts for the coming Messiah. When John saw Jesus coming toward him, John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b)
That is an amazingly significant declaration. Huge in its implications. Yes?
“Behold” - has the idea of seeing - perceiving - experiencing - discerning - spiritually getting it. Process this at the core of who you are: Jesus is the Lamb of God.
The Lamb Who does what? Takes away the sin of the world. Literally - He picks it up - bears it on Himself - and carries it off far from us. Who’s sin? The world’s sin. Our sin.
declaration is an amazing description of Jesus - the
coming Messiah - born in a manger. God in the
the Lamb of God - Who has come for us.
Over the next few Sundays - as we approach Christmas - the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation - Jesus being born in human flesh - we’re going to take up John’s invitation to behold the Lamb of God. To process together the huge significance for us that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
What does that mean for us - for us individually - as we celebrate Jesus’ coming?
Please turn with me to Exodus 12. Next Sunday we’ll be in Revelation - eventually in Philippians. We’re going to move around a bit in Scripture. This morning we’re going to begin in Exodus 12 with The Blood of the Lamb.
Exodus 12 - starting at verse 1: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.
Let’s pause there - just briefly. As we go through these verses there are some key points that we need to grab onto along the way.
The first is here in verse 2. “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.”
Happy New Year! The Hebrews
had two calendars.
One was secular which was used for government
and business - general stuff. The second
calendar was spiritual.
The whole purpose of which was to keep the
people focused on their relationship with God.
The first day of the secular calendar began with the new moon - September - Octoberish. The first day of the spiritual calendar begins here in Exodus 12 - what is about our March or April. Spiritually - day one of year one begins at this moment in Hebrew history. Hold onto that. God is about to do something totally new in the life of His people.
Let’s go on. Verse 3: Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their father’s houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
Let’s pause and grab the description of the lamb. Notice 7 things. First - every household is to have one. If you’ve got a small household you can double up. But every person in every house is to have a representative lamb.
Second - its according to their father’s houses. The head of the home - on behalf of everyone in the home - the father - sacrifices the lamb.
Third - the lamb is without blemish - meaning its perfect - without flaw. Not any old lamb will do. That perfection is what makes it acceptable before God as a sacrifice.
Fifth - its a year old - which means its come into its prime.
Sixth - its kept until the 14th day of the month. What month? The first month of the new year. Religious calendar. At twilight on the 14th day the lamb is killed - sacrificed by the father for the household.
Seventh. Lamb is singular. Not lambs. While the lamb is sacrificed for many - the household - there is one lamb representing each person within the household.
Are we together on where God is going with all this? God is giving His people an incredible purposeful foreshadowing of Jesus - the coming Messiah. God the Father’s sinless sacrificial lamb.
God focusing forward on the Lamb of Calvary - singular - Who is sacrificed - not only for the sins of the world - but for each of us individually. The lamb is sacrificed on the 14th day of the month at twilight. Which if you work out the timing of this - on the religious calendar - was exactly when Jesus was crucified and died.
Nothing but a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the requirements of God - who Himself is perfect. Jesus - the perfect male Lamb - sinless - is sacrificed - by the Father - on our behalf.
We’re together? There is no
question that ultimately this is about Jesus.
Let’s go on - verse 7: Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
Blood is significant. Scripture tells us that blood is life. (Leviticus 17:14) Symbolically - and in a very practical way - blood represents the life of a person. Try living without blood. Pretty tough.
The blood of the lamb is sprinkled on the doorpost and the lintel of the door. The blood of the sacrificed lamb which represents each individual living inside the house.
Verse 8: They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until morning; anything that remains until morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste.
Let’s pause there. With the sacrifice of the lamb - while God is providing for what’s coming outside the house - the blood on the door jam protecting from coming judgment - with the sacrifice of the lamb - God is also providing substance for those inside the house.
Hold on to this: Eating has the idea of taking something into ourselves so that it becomes part of us.
Stay with me. One understanding is that “unleavened” is what we see in throughout Scripture - where Scripture uses leaven as a symbol for sin. In other words “unleavened bread” is bread without sin. Point being - this is about removing sin - being without sin.
Bitter herbs represent remorse for sin. Sin is not a good thing. Understatement. Realizing that it was for our sin that Jesus died - that’s bitter.
Another understanding of what’s being pictured here is that unleavened represents haste - bread made quickly - without having to wait around for it to rise. Bitter herbs represent what we’ve left behind - the bitterness of slavery - what we leave behind as we exodus out of Egypt.
God says, “You shall eat it in haste.” How? “with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.”
Belt fastened meant those long robes - you can picture those - the long robes they wore were tied up around their waist so they wouldn’t trip over them as the moved quickly out of Egypt. Sandals on their feet meant they were ready to walk. The staff is a sign of pilgrimage - going on a journey. Eat in haste. Ready to move forward to where God will take you. Deliverance from bondage - slavery - bitterness in Egypt.
Putting all those ideas together - here’s what we need to see: We need to get the sin out of our lives - to run quickly from the bitterness of being bound by our sin. To quickly leave all that behind - to repent - to turn from all that towards God’s deliverance - towards the life that God has for us in Jesus. To run towards what God has for us in Jesus.
We need to feed on Jesus - Who in another description is the Bread of... Life - here He’s the sacrificed Lamb. We need to take Jesus into ourselves. To let Him enter in and be the sustenance of our lives - not the sin we need to hastily turn from.
One other observation. There are no leftovers. No doggie bag to take with us. It all gets eaten. The sacrifice in all its ceremony was to be completed within one night. At sunup there was to be no trace of the sacrificed lamb.
Peter writes - 1 Peter 3:18 - “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God…”
The atoning work of Jesus on the cross - His shedding of His blood in our place - is not an ongoing work. Its not progressive - a process with more to be accomplished. There’s no more to be done. Its complete. Its been accomplished definitely and eternally. It is finished.
There is a huge confidence in that. Isn’t there? When we run to Jesus - when we turn to Him - we don’t need to look elsewhere. Everything we need is found in Him. The issue of our salvation has been settled.
Jesus laying down His life for us becomes the very means of our deliverance and the very substance of our lives that we need to desperately turn from our sins and to feast on - to take in to our lives - that the very substance and basis of our lives is Jesus.
Let’s go on. The end of verse 11 and verses 12 and 13 are the bottom line summary of what God is laying out before us.
Verse 11: “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 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 no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
Bottom line summary point number one - verse 11: It is the Lord’s Passover. Who’s Passover? The Lord’s.
In verse 13 God describes what He will do to the Egyptians. The Hebrew word for plague describes intense affliction - unimaginable suffering. Destroying and striking - in Hebrew - those words describe judgment and punishment and utter ruin - total devastation.
The Book of Exodus records 10 plagues. There’s a purpose to these 10 plagues that goes way beyond just God delivering His people from slavery. Grab on to this: The sovereign holy God is judging Egypt for her sin - her arrogant defiance of God.
Plague number one was what? The Nile River turns to blood. God takes on the Egyptian god Osiris who was the giver of life. The Nile was his bloodstream. The Nile was the bloodstream of Egypt. Without the Nile Egypt economically was toast. Point being: God is sovereign over life and the economics of what sustains life.
Plague two was what? Frogs. God taking on the Egyptian gods - Hapi and Heket - gods of childbirth. Where and how life originates is up to God.
Plague three was what? Gnats. The plague is against Seb the earth god - showing God’s authority over the earth - dirt - soil.
Plague number four was? Flies or scarabs - beetles - which is against Khephera - who was suppose to be the god of resurrection. The Egyptians would put scarabs over the hearts of mummies to makes sure they made it okay in the afterlife. Point being - God - and only God - is the God of what comes next.
In plague five God takes out the livestock - the dairy and cattle industry. More importantly God takes out Hathor the cow-headed love goddess that was Pharaoh’s own personal god.
Hail wipes out flax and barley - disgracing the gods that were suppose to protect the land from destruction that came from the sky.
Locusts takes out Serapia who was a locust-headed god who was suppose to protect the Egyptians from… locusts.
Darkness is against Ra - the sun god who is the greatest god of all the Egyptian gods. In Egypt its dark at noon. While in Goshen - where God’s people are - in Goshen they’ve still got sunlight. Three days of darkness and Ra is humiliated.
Plague number ten - the death of the firstborn - is against Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh who was the supreme god of all the Egyptian gods. And plague 10 is against the first born of Pharaoh - the next god - who dies along with the cattle - on the level of animal. With all his power and affluence and arrogance Pharaoh is powerless against God.
The Egyptians seemingly recorded everything in stone. All those monuments - statues and edifices and reliefs. Can you picture that? Propaganda to pass on down the line of history their version of how great they were. So devastating were the plagues - so complete was God’s victory - that the Egyptians didn’t record it. They couldn’t spin it.
Each plague testifies not only of God’s sovereignty but also His holiness. Taken as a whole they demonstrate God’s response to sin - justified anger - justified wrath.
The word “Passover” in Hebrew means “to pass over.”
Passover also has the idea of soothing or appeasing. Meaning that God’s judgment is being leveled against Egypt. And yet, when God - who is holy - perfect - righteous - when God sees the blood His justified demand for judgment - for punishment - for wrath poured out on sin - being met - God is appeased and God passes over those within the house - because of the blood of the sacrificed lamb.
In Genesis 22 - Abraham is instructed to take his son Isaac up into the mountains of Moriah and there to offer his son as a sacrifice to God. The conversation between Isaac and Abraham - as they leave the others and head up into the hills - that conversation is familiar. Yes?
Isaac - who’s carrying the wood for the sacrifice - turns to Abraham - who’s carrying the fire and the knife - Isaac asks, “I see the wood and fire. But, where’s the lamb?”
Abraham - in a huge act of faith answers - quote: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:1-8). “God will provide for Himself.”
God provides for Himself a lamb to assert His sovereignty - His throne - to magnify His holiness - to satisfy His justice.
The sacrifice of Jesus - is a bloody offering to appease - to sooth - the holy wrath of the sin hating - sin punishing - holy God. Sacrificed - Jesus satisfies - appeases God’s legal requirement of punishment. That’s why John can declare: “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”
That’s why the Passover is God’s. Because it is all about what God has done. The perfect - righteous - holy - sovereign God judging and condemning and pouring out His justified anger - His wrath - taking out the gods and sin and corruption and arrogance of Egypt. God Who initiates. God Who provides the means of His appeasement - the means of deliverance for His people. God Who passes over.
What all that means - please hear this - what all that means is that God is glorified even if not one sinner comes to salvation through the blood of Jesus. Put another way - salvation isn’t about what we do but about what God has done.
Moses comes and tells the people, “Look this is what God wants us to do.”
Can you imagine that night - blood applied outside - eating lamb inside. What absolute foolishness. Listening to the screams of those attending the dead. Imagine being the first-born. Who are we before the sovereign God? What good is a little blood sprinkled on a doorpost going to do against death? Fear is easy - even knowing that God’s ongoing victory over the Egyptian gods.
God’s people could go through all the intricacies of preparing the sacrifice and the meal - to do all that with the greatest care and attention to detail - even putting the blood on the door posts and lintel - but doesn’t bring salvation - because they’re still toast unless God does what God says God will do.
Religious experiences. Baptism. Taking communion. Church-membership. Turning over a new leaf. Trying to live a better life. Giving to the poor. Reading the Bible cover to cover including the maps and concordance. Donating tons of money to Creekside - not that that’s such a bad thing. Going forward - responding to some appeal by an evangelist. Some great act of penance - devotion - giving up In-N-Out burgers. Our worthiness. Our cleaning ourselves up. That all may be great stuff. But it doesn’t save us.
Good people doing good things isn’t good enough.
We have no assurance - no peace - no confidence if the basis of our salvation depends on what we do - on how we respond to God. If the Passover isn’t God’s Passover then all we’re left with is some religious happy thoughts and good intentions.
Deliverance from God’s wrath - the reality of life with God now and forever - is by the finished work of Jesus on the cross and that alone. Period. The Lamb of God is the assurance of our salvation - the realization of our peace before God - the reality of the forgiveness of our sins - the basis of our relationship with God made right. Not because of us. But because the sovereign holy God says so.
Bottom line summary point number two - The Blood Must Be Applied.
Many many years ago I was touring the Wat Arun temple complex in Bangkok, Thailand. There - in one of the courtyards of the complex - was a woman on her knees - bowing in front of a concrete statue. From a bowl in front of this statue she was using her hands to splash water over her head. I don’t fully understand all of what she was doing. But it was an act of worship - devotion - that involved this idol.
It would be so easy for us think about that woman and think that she’s part of some primitive misguided religion - worshiping at statue made of concrete - something than man made. It would be so easy to think of ourselves as way more sophisticated than a bunch of wacked out Egyptians worshiping cow-headed goddesses and frogs and flies - oh my.
The first three plagues focus on the comfort of the Egyptians - depriving them of water to drink - to bathe in - frogs invading their homes - lice relentlessly attacking them personally. The second three plagues focus on their possessions. The last three plagues brought desolation and death - even the death of their ultimate god - the next Pharaoh.
The plagues are a description of our world-system focused on our man made - man focused - humanistic - defiance of God - economics - philosophy - and even religion. Every thing we stumble over - everything - in our arrogance - we get caught up in trusting - rather than God.
In verse 13 - God says, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.”
If blood isn’t applied to the door jam no amount of believing that its there would have brought deliverance. Our knowing that Jesus is the Lamb of God doesn’t save us. At some point - by faith the blood has to be applied to the door jam. We need to trust God’s promise - to receive the gift He freely provides for us.
What we’re looking at here could be a great exercise in doctrine - a wonderful sermon - a study of the sovereignty of God - great theological exposition. But what would be the point? What good does it do knowing all this - or doing all the religious stuff - if you’ve never trusted God with your life? If you’ve never opened your life to Him? If you’ve never accepted - by faith - His offer to save you?
We need to stop trusting in the gods of Egypt and begin trusting in the living God of the Bible. To make haste to let go of our sin and trust God for the deliverance He offers.
There’s something else here that - as I’ve been thinking about all this - there is one other thing here that really challenges me. That is how easy it is - once the blood is applied - to go back to trusting the gods of Egypt.
The hardest part
of a diet isn’t loosing the weight. Its what? Its keeping
the weight off. Once
we get some weight off we get complacent. We loose our
sense of purpose - or urgency - of haste - running
from all that self-destructive - weight gaining
start to compromise.
We fudge - literally - with what we allow
ourselves to eat.
It doesn’t take much to end up back where we
started - maybe even heavier.
After God delivers His people - after all the plagues - the parting gifts of the Egyptians - Pharaoh’s army getting drown - all the reasons God’s people should have trusted Him - right there in front of the mountain with God up on top revealing His awesome presence - God’s people are making a golden calf - turning back to the religious practices of Egypt.
God takes His people through the wilderness right up to the land He promised to hand over to them. When God’s people saw those living in the land - enemies way inferior to the Egyptians God has already wiped out - God’s people doubt God - choose to trust their own wisdom and self-sufficiency - not God.
Through out the wilderness - it didn’t matter how God provided for His people - the people still whined. “We should have stayed in Egypt. We’d rather be eating leeks and onions. We’d rather be slaves.”
Even after God established His people in the Land - they compromised. Failed to clean out the leaven of the ungodly people. They compromised and ended up bowing and worshiping other gods just like everyone else - living in gross immorality.
Recorded in Scripture - God - time and time again - God reminds His people that He - God - delivered them from Egypt - from bondage to serve Him - to be His blessed people. God - time and time again - reminds His people to teach their children that He - God - delivered them from Egypt.
Time and time again God pleads with Him people. Trust Me. Obey Me. Be blessed by Me. And time and time again God’s people forgot - wandered off trusting other gods - self-destructing in their own foolishness and sin.
Jesus said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19).
One of the great values to looking at what we’re looking at this morning - of regularly sharing communion together - is to be reminded of what God has done for us and to renew our faith in Him. Because it is way too easy for us to go back to bowing before the gods of Egypt.
Faith is opening our lives to receive what God has already done for us. Turning from whatever we’re looking to for our security - turning with haste - quickly letting go of the bitterness of sin - and following God into His deliverance - into the hugely blessed life He has for us with Him.
Have you trusted God with your life? Are you trusting God with your life?
_________________________Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.