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Living by faith (6)

Faith lives under the protection of the Blood of the Lamb

Scripture Readings:

  • Exodus 12:1-13
  • Hebrews 11:23-28

Hymns/songs

  • We come together
  • Amazing Love
  • Before the Throne of God above
  • There is a hope

Introduction

My dear brother and sister,

The Word of God spoke to us the last five Sundays about faith.  The Bible provides its own definition of faith:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

The Bible further states:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

What follows, as we have looked at it, are the accounts of different people who believed that God exists, they had confidence in what they hoped for and assurance about the things they did not see.  But their names are not listed in the Bible in the same way as the names of church members appear in the rolls of a congregation.

There are times when we find it important for our names to appear on the congregational roll.  When there is a crisis of some sort we can easily remind others that our name is written in the rolls; or when we need our children baptised; or when we need to bury a loved on. It is almost a sort of a right to service we have.  It is indeed not wrong to expect of the church to which one belongs to look after it members.

The problem might be that my name on the roll is just that:  a name on a roll; it says nothing about what I believed and how I put what I believed in into practice.

On a funeral for such a member, a Dutch minister pointed to the casket in front of the pulpit and said, “This corpse was a member of this church for the last 43 years.”  He got the message across.

What the Bible recorded about Noah, Abraham, Sarah Joseph and Moses was more than the fact that they confessed to believe.  What is recorded is how what they believed made them act in certain ways.  Never is Biblical faith a state of mind only; surely, this is where it all starts; Biblical faith is faith in action.  That is what James is saying:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22–25, NIV)

Noah, after hearing about the pending destruction, preached the righteousness of God, but he also took God on his word and built an ark big enough for the animals God wanted in there – even when he was miles away from the closest ocean.

Abraham, after experiencing the saving grace of God, packed his bags and took his wife and left for the Promised Land.  At first he received nothing, but he believed the promise.  He was there where God wanted him to be, following the command of the Lord.

Joseph encouraged his compatriots by focussing on the sure promises of God, and because of that he demanded that he would not be buried in Egypt, but in the Promised Land.

The parents of Moses believed in the promise of God, they did not fear the Pharaoh and acted upon it:  they kept Moses against the decree of the King.

Moses, believed God and did not fear the King.  He spurned the pleasures of the place and sided with his people in the disgrace they experienced.

So, when we say we believe, when we have our names recorded somewhere on some roll, what impact does it have on our deeds?  It certainly should mean that we believed God and that we took Him for real on his promises.  If there would be another column next to our names in the rolls with a heading “What he/she did” what would be written against your name?  Faith lives in deeds.

Moses, the faithful intercessor

Moses stood between the people of God and the oppressor Pharaoh as a shadow of the our Lord Jesus Christ who interceded and is still interceding for us.

Nine times did he proclaim the judgement of God upon Egypt for its refusal to let the people go and worship their God.  Without fail God did as He promised:  the water of the Nile turned into blood.  The Bible says, “Blood was everywhere in Egypt.” (Exodus 7:21) Then there were frogs everywhere, followed by gnats like dust clouds in immensity. Even the magicians saw it as the finger of God (Exodus 8:19). The gnats were followed by flies, which only pestered the Egyptians and not the Jewish homes (Exodus 8:22).  The Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened as he refused to let the people go.

Next, a plague struck the animals of the Egyptians, but not those of God’s people (Exodus 9:6).  This was followed by plague on both man and animal, followed by destructive hail.  Some officials of Pharaoh feared the Word of the Lord and found shelter for their salves and animals (9:21), but where the Israelites lived, nothing happened. What was left after the hail was then taken away by the locusts.  Pharaoh was willing to let some of the Israelites go, but Moses, in the Name of God, stood uncompromised:  all, or no one at all.  God is to be feared more that the Pharaoh.  Then darkness fell, so thick to you feel it, for three days.  The king was willing to let the people go, but not their livestock.  No, they belong to God too; they are for his worship (10:26).

Pharaoh sent Moses away with these words:

Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” (Exodus 10:28, NIV)

Moses never appeared again, but God was in control, and God’s punishment on the hard heart of the Pharaoh was not the death of his faithful servant Moses; He would kill every firstborn of every Egyptian and their animals.  Death would enter the palace too. Before he left the throne hall of the Pharaoh Moses, by faith in the Living God, pronounced this:

Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. (Exodus 11:5–7, NIV)

Moses proclaims destruction

Moses, by then, was highly regarded by the king’s officials and must have feared those words coming from his mouth.

Something remarkable is going to happen: where the other plagues did not effect the Israelites to make a distinction between them and the Egyptians “so that you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (11:7), God’s people now had to show that they believed God.  They had to show that they want to live under the protection of God.  They had to follow the instructions of God to the letter, or the angel of death would not pass over their house.

By now everyone knew that God would do as He said He would.  The first nine plagues happened as God announced without fail.  Why would the tenth not happen?

There might have been some who could have argued that although God indeed did as He said He would, there was nothing specific in the preparation for the Israelites to escape the plagues; God automatically excluded them.  He is clearly on their side and would not harm them.  They believed Him, but why now kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorpost?  For goodness sake, we are the covenant people of the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who promised to rescue us even 430 years ago; that’s what He promised, that’s what He is going to do.  We will be free, the Egyptians will suffer.  They deserve it!  We deserve salvation after all theses years of suffering.  God will not let anyone of us die.  I am a Jew, I have a right.

Which reminds us of the parable of the great banquet.  People were gathered in from the allies and the lane ways.  They were crippled, sick, blind and generally the outcast of society.  Entrance was free.  What a joy!  What a privilege!  Just walk in and sit down – that’s the deal.  Almost too good to be true.  One fellow walked in and sat down and probably could not believe his eyes:  all the food and beautifully prepared tables.  For once in his life he would be treated like royalty.  Then he saw the master of the banquet walking up to him.  He’s going to have a word with me!  How special.  “How did you get in here without the right dress which my servants hand out at the door?”  But … “Throw him out, he does not meet my standards!”  One only enters by the rules set by the master.  So it was with the Israelites in Egypt:  the gift of salvation is free, but no one could bypass the conditions set by God. It is only by the blood of the Lamb!

Many church people might argue the same:  they attend church on Sunday, they were baptised, they took Communion on a regular basis, they were in Sunday School and Youth Group, and now they support the work of the church financially – or at least their parents did all these things. She’ll be apples, Mate!

Moses proclaims grace

Yet, God commanded Moses to instruct the Israelites to be very specific in their preparation so that the tenth plague would not strike them too.

No exact time

First, be sure destruction will come.  “About midnight” – no specific minute, but the warning is there, it will surely happen before the sun rise. We do not know the specific hour of God visitation and therefore we need to be ready every moment!

God, the Avenger

Second, God is at work:  “I will go throughout Egypt.”  God did it then, and when the final trumpet is sounded at the return of our Lord, be sure that it will not be anyone else bur our Lord we will face that minute.  Listen:

He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:13–16, ESV)

Every household

Third, every household had to prepare by taking a lamb without blemish.  Although they were born along the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and now receive grace far above the Egyptians who could not prepare a lamb to keep the angel of death away from their homes, they had to do as God commanded.  No bread with yeast in it should be found in their houses – it was a sign of corruption; they should eat the meat of the lamb as a feast of delivery from bondage, but with it they should have bitter herbs to remind them of their slavery.  Some of the blood they had to spread on the doorpost of their home.

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. (Exodus 12:13, ESV)

You call yourself an Israelite, well show it!  Display the sign of the blood of the lamb to ward off the wrath of God.  And God will be merciful.  Without the blood of the lamb, death will come to your home.

You call yourself a Christian? You will have to demonstrate it in what you do.  You have to put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, to escape death.  Without the blood of the Lamb, death will come to your home on the day of his visitation.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12, ESV)

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10, ESV)

It is only when one is dressed in the white linen of the Lamb, washed in his blood, your name written in his Book, that we are safe.

Remain under protection

Fourth, stay in your house until the danger is over (Exodus 12:22).  To venture out of your house is to expose yourself.  Only when you stay where there is blood to be seen on the doorpost, will you be saved.  There was the danger of having blood on your door, but being found where there is no blood, is to be with those who oppose God.

This command has implications for us Christians too: remain under the protection of the blood of Christ all the time, in everything we do. There is no such a thing as a Sunday Christian who acts differently on other days of the week as if Christ and his salvation does not have a claim on our everyday life.  “Remain in Me as I remain in You. Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15).  Don’t be a hypocrite, beautiful on the outside but full of dead men’s bones inside.  Love not this world.  James writes:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, ESV)

Why does he call them adulterous?  Because they are not faithful to God only.  Stay in your house!  Wonder outside and the destroyer will hit.  You need to shelter under the blood of the Lamb – all the time!

It must have been a dreadful night in Egypt:

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. (Exodus 12:29–30, ESV)

For those who do not find shelter in the blood of the Lamb there will be another dreadful day:

I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (Revelation 6:12–14, ESV)

And then the biggest prayer meeting of all time:

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15–17, ESV)

Conclusion

Of Moses the writer of the Hebrews says:

By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:28, ESV)

We say we believe.  What does the column in the roll say about how we acted because of our faith?  Maybe this: he/she believed in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God and found shelter against the angel of death.  He/she did not really die, but exchanged the earthly clothes for the white clothes of the Lamb; he/she is now dining at the wedding feast of the Lamb.  He/she are now with  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph and Moses in the presence of God.  They too, looked forward to their eternal home where Jesus Christ is the Head.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 October 2012

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