Relating to God:
The Good News!"Now 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 the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:13
Opening Prayer: Father, guide me in this study. Teach me to understand and actively seek Your will for my life.
In the previous lesson, we saw how our ancestors created a huge problem for themselves. And for us. Adam and Eve began in a perfect world with only two rules:
- Tend the garden
- Don't eat the fruit of one tree.
Apparently Adam had no problem with the first one, which came with no penalty attached. But Adam was a lot like me -- intrigued by the one thing on the planet that he couldn't have.
So Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden, to face a much different world. Worse, they had to contend with the problem of death. Their bodies would die for sure, but could was there any hope for their eternal souls?
The first glimmer of God's plan of redemption came in Genesis 3, verses 14 and 15:And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
This symbolism isn't really clear to readers these days, but it offers hope. A redeemer born of woman would crush the head of the serpent (a fatal blow). In the process, the redeemer would receive a heel bruise (painful but not fatal).
The next major clue to God's plan appears in the book of Exodus. God is speaking to Moses in chapter 12; we'll read portions of verses 3 through 7:Speak unto all the congregation of Israel saying, In the tenth day of this month, let every man take a lamb for each house. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and splash it on the the two side posts and on the upper post of the doors of the houses...
This looks messy, but God has a plan. Read verses 12 and 13:For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt...And the blood shall be to you a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
There are a couple of things in this passage that I don't particularly care for:
- I don't like the sight of blood
- I am a firstborn child, all this talk of killing the firstborn in every house gives me the chills.
Putting that aside for the moment (if you can), let's look at the larger picture. Let's see the whole picture of what God is saying here:
- This land has sinned against Me and My people.
- I've sent you, Moses, working miracles to show that you are authorized to speak for Me. They know they should let you go, but won't do so willingly.
- My judgment is about to fall upon the people of this land. Somebody or something is going to die in every household.
- Any family in Egypt, Hebrew or Egyptian, can escape the judgment by choosing to identify with Me.
- If you choose to identify with Me, kill a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of your house. I will see the blood and not harm the people inside the house.
At this point, I hope you are thinking, "All that bloody stuff is terrible!" That's just what God wants you to think, because (as usual) He is trying to teach a higher point.
At the very beginning, God warned that breaking His rule (remember:there was only one rule with a penalty attached) would cause death. God didn't ask them to be perfect and meet His standards of perfection in all areas. All He wanted was for Adam and Eve to take Him seriously, trust Him, obey one little rule and live. They chose to take the risk, and they paid the price.
You and I are still paying the price. God's standard is still perfection. The defects in our character and behavior grieve Him, just as we are grieved by watching innocent people (or even animals) suffer and die. We can't muster perfection in our performance, but -- as always -- God provides a way of escape.
The problem and solution are stated succinctly by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, chapter 3, verses 23 and 24:For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Verse 28 puts the exclamation point on it:Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, apart from the works of the law.
Note the key elements here:
- Our squeaky-clean best still falls short of God's standards;
- He might appreciate the thought and effort, but He's not impressed with our godliness.
- He provided a means by which we can receive eternal life and fellowship with Him.
- The means is within the grasp of every man, woman and child capable of hearing and understanding.
- The means has something to do with Jesus.
Paul reinforces the point in chapter 6, verse 23:For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
What additional points do we see here?
- The penalty for sin has not changed from Adam's day. It is still death.
- Everything we do is sin, by definition, since it falls short of God's standards.
- Somebody or something has to die to pay the penalty for the sin.
- Yet God somehow provides a way for us to obtain eternal life and fellowship with Him as a GIFT.
But how? After all, we cannot change the penalty -- Adam and Eve voted for death, and they got it. But can we choose WHO will die to pay the penalty for our sin? Is there any principle we've seen in Scripture so far that would allow somebody or something to die in my place?
You guessed it: the Passover lambs died to prevent the deaths of the Israelite firstborn.
What's the catch? How sinless did the Israelites have to be in order to qualify and participate?
The Israelite families did not have to live perfect lives or promise to obey all the rules in the future. All they had to do was TRUST that God was telling the truth, put the blood on the door, and STAY behind the door until the angel had finished.
But isn't that narrow minded? What about the Israelites who lived decent, honorable lives but who loved animals too much to sacrifice them. Couldn't they do just as well by putting artichokes or maybe some kind of fruit salad or matzoh meal on the door instead of lamb's blood?
Cain tried that vegetarian "just-as-good-as-God's-way" stuff back in Genesis chapter 4, but God wasn't impressed. The point is that calling God narrow minded doesn't change facts. We have to grow up and accept the consequences of our actions. We seem to be able to do that in other, less-important areas of our lives, such as paying taxes.
Why do most citizens take paying taxes seriously?The consequences of disobedience are immediate and obvious.
By the same token, why do folks think they can mock God and do things their own way?
The results of disobedience are not as visible and dramatic. In fact, some of the most blatantly disobedient folks seem to be doing quite well. Some even manage to get elected and reelected. See Coping with Creeps for more on that subject.
How does all this tie together? What does Jesus Christ have to do with the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament? What's in it for me?
The innocent animals died so that the Israelites who trusted God's promise would live. The Israelites couldn't live perfect, sinless lives. But they could manage to sacrifice some animals every now and then.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the ultimate price for all of our sins. Since His death, there is no need for animal sacrifices since the price has been paid. The resurrection was God's way of showing His approval of His Son's sacrifice on our behalf.
Back to you and me. Let's say I do take God seriously, and want to get this gift of eternal life, what do I do now?
A few simple steps of understanding, and then some simple actions:
The only way to receive this free gift is by asking for it. Call it prayer, if you like. These are the four ingredients:
- Understand that none of us can live perfect, sinless lives.
- Understand that the wages of sin is death, and that somebody or something must die for your sin.
- Understand that Jesus died to pay the price for sin, once and for all. He paid the price for everybody's sin, including yours and mine.
- Admit to yourself and then to God that you have fallen short of His standards, and deserve the penalty for your actions.
- Admit to yourself and then to God that you are not capable of perfection, and cannot possibly earn eternal life on your own merits.
- Ask God to forgive your sins -- past, present and future -- on the merits of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.
- Ask God to come into your heart, to give you an implant of His Holy Spirit -- a new nature (a spiritual heart transplant) capable of experiencing the love and fellowship of God in ways you had only hoped for. With this implant of the Holy Spirit in your heart, you now have assurance of eternal life with God in heaven -- despite your past and future sins.
May I suggest that you NOT postpone this decision. If you do not have a right relationship with God and the heart transplant that God promises to believers, you will find great difficulty in your relationships with anybody else.
Heed the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, verse 1:Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and before the years approach of which you will say,I have no pleasure in them.
You can remember God now, today, while you're still young enough to enjoy life. And believe it or not, the greatest joy in life does NOT come from seeing how long we can postpone the decision to get right with God. As one who insisted on trying all of the world's joys first, let me assure you that God's joy and the benefits of His love put all that other stuff to shame.
What joy? What benefits? What love?
We'll cover that in future lessons.
Closing Prayer: Father, I'm so grateful that You have provided the ultimate sacrificial lamb to pay the price for my sins. Let Your Holy Spirit open my eyes and ears to experience the joy of restored fellowship with You. Amen.