Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Easter Convention 2006: The Passover Lamb

Well! Singaporeans are certainly making full use of David Jackman on his sojourn here.

I probably didn't get everything but here's a fair bit of David Jackman's first talk at the English Presbytery's Easter Convention 2006:

The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:1-13)
The theme of the three talks at the Easter Convention this year is the Cross Examined. You'll find it is centred on Hebrews 12:2 - let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Introduction: Big Picture Thinking
It is important to focus on the big picture thinking. Panorama. The danger for being Christian for some time is that we may no longer be excited by the gospel. It doesn't grip our minds and hearts and inspire our spirits.

Take a step back and look at the universal context of the whole Bible. The whole Bible is about the rescue of humans, rebellious humans, who refused to acknowledge God who furnished the luxurious provisions, but put him on the sideline.

Man instead tries to lift himself up. The agenda of all the world's religions is to try to climb up to rescue ourselves. But none of these ladders are high enough. None of these ladders make it to God.

The good news of Easter is that God himself has come down the ladder to us, to die on the cross at Easter. The gospel is the power of God to those who are Christians. If we don't know the power of God in our lives, we need to think whether we are Christian. The power of the gospel.

Let's look at the biggest single event in the whole of the Old Testament. It is the Exodus: the rescue of God's people from Egypt to the land that God would give them. Before the Passover, they were a subjugated people but after, they were a people who could not stay in Egypt. Even the Egyptians thrust them out.

The God of the Bible is the God who saves. If we read Exodus, we will see that he is already a god that rescues.
Exodus 3:8 – God has come down to save
Exodus 6:6-7 - I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.

Those verses stress that what we are looking at is God's initiative. God of the Bible always speaks before he acts. When he acts, it confirms the truth of his character and his power. It proves that he is reliable, trustworthy and his word is true. The great event, the Passover, confirms that the God who speaks and acts is honest and trustworthy.

For Christians, it means even more. Let me quote from 1 Corinthians 5:7 - "get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are", for Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. What's he talking about? At Passover, there was no yeast in the bread. The Jewish family would make sure that there was no yeast in the house before they baked that bread. So Paul is saying that yeast is like the sins in our lives. Why without yeast? So that you will be pure and simple without sins.

Whenever you think of the Passover Lamb, think of Jesus. The Exodus lamb was symbolic of a much greater Lamb which was Jesus who saved all, not just Israel, from the tyranny of sin and brought them to the promised land, heaven. The great rescue mission of God is executed in the exodus of Christ,

1. Salvation requires sacrifice
Why the plagues?

God's salvation requires sacrifice. It is historical (Exodus 12). Why did God send plagues? To vindicate God's judgement. The Pharaoh and people hardened their hearts. God sent plagues, he sent plagues of frogs and plagues of flies, boils, hail, locusts, and you would have thought that they would see that God was God and repent. But they did not, they hardened their hearts. The plagues did not rescue the people. God was patient, waiting for the Egyptians to repent. When they did not, God showed his righteousness by the plague on the firstborn.

The distinction was not between the Israelites and the Egyptians, not a racial distinction, but because of the Israelite's obedience in appropriating his promise. There is no distinction between the two groups, only the provision God has made in the sacrificial lamb. It is the same for us. We must appropriate the promises of God.

(a) Covenant mercy in the divine provision
Remember the calendar provisions that God gave the Israelites? He was starting something totally new, totally different. A new community of his people. Now that they are out of Egypt, they are not to follow Egyptian practices.

The sacrificial lamb must be without defect. The unblemished lamb would have been the most valuable animal. An animal at the height of its strength. So it would have been put to death for no other reason. It was a perfect life separated from the flock, kept with family for three days and then slaughtered.

Outside the house, the blood of the lamb was painted on the doorposts. Exodus 12:10 the lamb was totally devoured in the Passover meal. A complete and total sacrifice. Covenant mercy.

(b) Covenant grace in the lamb's propitiation
"Propitiation". There is no other word in the English language that gives the same meaning. Salvation and deliverance not just from bondage in Egypt but also the wrath of God against all sin. You see this in Exodus 12:12. We will never understand the cross of Jesus until we understand the wrath of God. It was only the blood of the sacrifical lamb that prevented the destroying angel from killing their firstborn.

See Exodus 12:30. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

This is a difficult concept. Many people ask why God does not deal with suffering and evil in the world. Let's say at 12 midnight, God will deal with all evil. Where will you be at 1 past midnight? Destroyed. Because the evil is not out there, it is in here.

The lamb is that which appeases God's wrath. It turns it away because the sacrifice has been made. It is the sheer grace and mercy of God that provides for this rescue.

I've been reading "Free of Charge". It speaks powerfully and effectively about God's wrath and love:
I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn't God love? Shouldn't divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That's exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God's wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators' basic goodness? Wasn't God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God's wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn't wrathful at the sight of the world's evil. God isn't wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.
I haven't loved the Lord as my God. I have never loved my neighbour as myself.

That is why the lamb is so important. It is to propiatiate wrath so that wrath is turned away. But they had to obey God. It was not just knowing about it, but also trusting in it, doing something about it. Billy Graham used to say that just growing up in a Christian family did not make you a Christian, no more than growing up in a garage makes you an automobile.

You have on the news some people practising their decontamination exercise. If there is a decontamination process, what happens is that there is something that you are not control of something that will contaminate you. So it is not that Jesus is providing us with a self-sacrificial example but that he is saving us from something that will kill us.

In Jesus, God provides something more powerful than any sacrificial lamb in any Jewish family. He gave perfect human life, perfectly obedient to God to be our sacrifice for sins.

The difference between the Egyptians and Israelites is not being under the blood of the lamb and being under the blood of the lamb.

2. Salvation requires substitution
(a) Identification with the lamb

The sacrificial animal is the substitute for the worshopper. The worshipper lays hands on head of the animal. He identifies with the animal as the substitute whose life is given as a sacrifice.

Exodus 12:3. There is to be one lamb for each household. God is teaching the principle of atonement. Exodus 12:4 - the lamb represents the number of members in family. This is a way in which the lamb identifies with the family and the family in the lamb. "A sign for you" (v13) does not mean a sign for you to see so you can see the road ahead but a sign on your behalf. A substitute.

Already there is a death in the household of the Egyptians but there is a rescue in the houses of those who put the lamb's blood on the door. They have trusted in what God has said and obeyed him.

God is an unchanging god. So this is the same thing in New Testament. The prefect Lamb, Jesus takes the judgement due to fall on us because of our rebellion against god. He is the perfect and exact sacrifice for us. He is the perfect will who always obeyed God.

With Jesus, it was a sacrifice once for all, not every year for one household.

(b) Security only through the lamb
Identification with the lamb means that security is accomplished in the lamb.

The Egyptians refused to believe even though they may have known about it. They may have asked the Israelites what they were doing and why. They may have understood it. But the point was whether they did anything about it, whether they trusted and obeyed.

Only substitutionary death of Jesus will take the judgement for us. He came into the world so that he could die for that sin. Or we would forever be separate from God.

George Bernand Shaw who is famous for not being a believer was sitting in a meeting. And when the preacher spoke about Jesus' death paying for the debts of the whole world, he stood up and storming out shouting,"I will pay my own debts!" Of course he will. It's true of us all – Jesus will or we will, either the Lamb becomes the substitute or we will.

I want to ask you if that is your experience that Jesus died for you.

3. Salvation requires sustenance
The end of life in Egypt was beginning of life in Israel. Exodus 12:11. Eat in haste because it's the Lord's Passover. The roast lamb was to sustain them in the journey to the promised lamb. It was their breakfast. When I was a pastor, there was a man in congregation who would eat breakfast the night before to save time in the morning. You can't eat the lamb and stay in Egypt. You eat the lamb so as to sustain you on the journey. There is a feast inside the house because there is a journey ahead. (Of course he gave them the quail, manna and spring water on the way as well.)

We too have a promised land, the cross of Jesus is only the beginning. He also leads his flock. He who was the perfect Lamb is also the Shepherd.

When we examine the cross again tonight, isn't it wonderful that we have this foreshadowing centuries before in the Passover? We can rejoice now that the sacrifice of Jesus was once for all, not for just one household, once a year. It was that perfect that we can know forgiveness. A great redeeming work has taken place. This is reality. It has effects for eternity.

Conclusion: Behold the Lamb (John 1:29)
Behold the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. He is without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:19). No wonder the worship in heaven is focused on the Lamb (Revelation 5:6, 12-14).

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Easter Convention 2006: The Passover Lamb
Easter Convention 2006: The Sinless Sufferer
Easter Convention 2006: The Powerful Rescuer

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