Exodus: New Direction, New Life
The Power of Passover
Text: Exodus 12
Dead horse theory
I don’t know if this is true but there is a legend about the Dakota Sioux tribal wisdom. That has a saying “When you discover you are riding a dead horse, get off.”
However, in the business/church world (might even apply to military command), we often see other strategies for this situation:
Appoint a committee to study the dead horse.
Hire a contractor to ride the dead horse.
Arrange a visit to another site to see how they ride dead horses.
Create a training session to increase our riding ability.
Remind all concerned that "this is the way we have always ridden this horse".
Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.
Some people are riding dead horses, thinking that we are going somewhere, when in reality we are stuck in our past, our routines and sometimes in our sin. If we don’t get off the dead horse soon, we’ll be dying as well. Life, especially the Christian life is about change. We see just such a time of change in the book of Exodus chapter 12. It was time for a change, time for a new life for Israel.
Life In The New Year Exodus 12:1-2
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
God Makes a New Year
God tells the Israelites that a new calendar is starting.
It will be a time of complete change.
There will be a different new year from now on. They will move to new land, and they will live new life. They would be free and no longer slaves.
So radical would be the changes be that from that moment on it would be remembered by the marking of the New Year on their calendar. From this point on the new year would be Abib. Later it was called “Nisan” and comes close to our April. The year used to began with the month Tisri, when the harvest was gathered in. - Barnes'.
God Always Brings Change
Let me share some quotes with you about change. They might sum up what we sometimes feel like when we are contemplating changes in our own life.
Change is the handmaiden nature requires to do her miracles with. - Mark Twain (1835–1910)
Change is the nursery of music, joy, life, and eternity. -John Donne (1572–1631)
Christians are supposed not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it. - Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969)
Some of us can relate to this quote, “With me, a change of trouble is as good as a vacation.” - David Lloyd George
This morning what I am challenge you to accept, understand and even anticipate that our God is a God of change. He does it throughout history. The Bible is a record of one change after the other, from creation, to the flood, to the beginning of the nation of Israel, to the new Jerusalem, and New Heaven and earth. He changes hearts, he changes nations and he changes churches through the greatest catalyst of all eternity Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.
Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Those are strong verses containing powerful truths but we must personally come to face what they mean when it confronts us with our own need to change as God leads.
A new start, a new life in the Lord always means leaving the old behind. The Israelites had to leave Egypt, their homes, perhaps many of their friends.It was not easy but it was necessary and by God’s will and power it was worth every loss.
No matter how hard it is to change, or how difficult it is to leave things behind, we need to embrace the change that God will bring because it always, always will be better than the old. Don’t keep trying to ride that old dead horse, sooner or later it won’t just be the horse that is dead.
Wesley and the Robber
(Now I’m not a big fan of John Wesley, after all he gave us the Methodists, but I like a lot of things he said and did. So let me tell you a story about John Wesley and the road agent, what we now call a robber.)
As John Wesley rode across Hounslow Heath late one night, singing a favorite hymn, he was startled by a fierce voice shouting, “Halt,” while a firm hand seized the horse’s bridle. Then the man demanded, “Your money or your life.”
Wesley obediently emptied his pockets of the few coins they contained and invited the robber to examine his saddlebags which were filled with books. Disappointed at the result, the robber was turning away when evangelist cried, “Stop! I have something more to give you.”
The robber, wondering at this strange call, turned back. Then Wesley, bending down toward him, said in solemn tones, “My friend, you may live to regret this sort of a life in which you are engaged. If you ever do, I beseech you to remember this, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.’” The robber hurried silently away, and the man of God rode along, praying in his heart that the word spoken might be fixed in the robber’s conscience.
Years later, at the close of a Sunday evening service with the people streaming from the large building, many lingered around the doors to see the aged preacher, John Wesley.
A stranger stepped forward and earnestly begged to speak with Mr. Wesley. What a surprise to find that this was the robber of Hounslow Heath, now a well-to-do tradesman in the city, but better still, a child of God! The words spoken that night long ago had been used of God in his conversion.
Raising the hand of John Wesley to his lips, he affectionately kissed it and said in tones of deep emotion, “To you, dear sir, I owe it all.”
Wesley replied softly, “Nay, nay, my friend, not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ which cleanseth us from all sin.”
That highway man found change in Jesus Christ and it was the best change he could ever make and it brings us to our next point. Change this profound requires something much greater than our strength and resolve. It requires sacrifice.
Life In the Lamb Exodus 12:3-7
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
God Starts New Life At The Passover
The single event that for the Hebrews, would make the new completely break from the old was the Passover lamb. God told Moses that each house was to take a male lamb w/o spot or blemish. It was to be slain in the evening with the whole assembly of Israel. They were to take the blood of the lamb and put it upon the doorposts of the house. Then they were to eat the lamb with all their family.
This would be the last action they took as slaves, for once they partook of the Passover lamb they would be made free by the power of God. For that night the Angel of the Lord passed through the land of Egypt and those who did not put themselves under the blood of the lamb suffered death and heartache. Those who refused to accept God’s protection, refused to accept their need to change, suffered the terrible loss of life by the wrath of God.
But those who believed, those who made that slain lamb the sign of their faith, were spared God’s wrath and they found a new life and freedom.
New Life Starts With The Slain Lamb
Just as God brought new life to the Israelites through a slain lamb, He will bring new life to us through THE slain lamb, slain as though from the beginning of time. Slain given us new life, slain to protect us from the wrath of God’s justice in the punishment of our sin.
The Bible tells us that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lamb of God.
John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
It is through him and only through His shed blood that new life can start.
1 Peter 1: 18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
If there is to be a new life for us, if there is to be a new start for us it must be through the blood of the Lamb of God.
This is our salvation from sin, this is our salvation from slavery, this is our salvation from tradition and routine, this is our salvation from death.
We must always look to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ slain for us and place ourselves under the protection of that precious blood. That is the sign of our faith, just as it was for those Hebrews that first Passover night. Then and only then can we really change. Change from fear to hope, from sorrow to joy from death to life.
William Wilberforce, a man who changed the world through Christ
When William Wilberforce was brought to Christ he went with fear and trembling to his friend, the great statesman of the day, William Pitt, to tell him of the change. For two hours his friend endeavored to convince him that he was becoming visionary, fanatical, if not insane. But the young convert was steadfast and immovable. He had spent his twenty-fifth birthday at the top wave and highest flow of those amusements—the racecourse and the ballroom—which had swallowed up a large portion of his youth. He had laughed and sung, and been envied for his gaiety and happiness. But true happiness he had never found till he found Christ. And now he laid his wealth and wit and eloquence and influence at the feet of his Lord, his motto being—“Whatsoever others do, as for me, I will serve the Lord.”
God changed William Wilberforce and William Wilberforce changed England and the world by working for decades in Parliament to finally eradicate slavery in England and to influence the emancipation of all slaves in the Christian nations throughout the world. That is the kind of change God can bring, first with one life and then that life that can change everything around it.
Finally, we need to also understand that change often means moving, taking action or going where God wants us to go.
Life In a New Land Exodus 12:8-14
And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye 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 smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
God Says Go!
God tells His people to prepare to move. They are to be dressed, with their staff in the hands and shoes on their feet. They are to go when the Lord gives the signal. That night He would pass through the land separating the old world of Egypt from the new world of the Promised Land. Those who believed God would have the blood upon the door. Those who rejected God or could not leave Egypt would not.
When the death angel passed over Israel it would start their move toward the new promised land. Now from that day forth, they would keep the Passover as a memorial to what God had done in making them free from Egypt’s chains of slavery.
Are You Ready To Go?
I wonder this morning, are you prepared, when God speaks, to go? Are we dressed in the armor of the Lord? Do we have our staff, the Word of God, in our hands? Are we hastening to go and do what God tell us to do? When the day of opportunity comes will we be ready to move forward to the promised land or will we stay as slaves in Egypt?
This morning as you sit in this church, will you respond as God touches your heart and tells you to come and find a new life through Jesus Christ? Or would you look back to your old life, your old friends, your old disbelief, your old sin and decide to stay in the bonds of Egypt another day?
The death angel comes into every life one day, but only those who have made Jesus Christ their Savior, only those who have put His blood on the lintel and doorpost of their hearts will be passed over and spared from the judgment of God to go from this life to eternal life.
If God should open a door of opportunity for this Church would we go through it? Would we see the chance to renew our work for God? Would we take our staff in our hands and work where God directed us? Or would we decide to hold on to the past, our traditions or our fears and miss the opportunity that God opened for us.
Are you ready this morning to move when God says go?
Those who are will go on to the Promised Land, to the newness of God. Those who are not will stay behind and miss the blessing that only God brings with His call to change. I hope and pray that I will always be ready and then choose to go when God signals, “It is time.” I hope and pray that you are ready today.
Phillip Bliss always chose to go with the Lord
Bliss the writer of many hymns we still sing today, was born in a Pennsylvania log cabin in 1838. His father was Mr. Isaac Bliss, a strong believer in the Lord, who taught the family to pray daily. His dad loved music and encouraged Philip to sing. Bliss had very little formal education and was mostly taught by his mother, from the Bible. At only 11, he left home to work in timber camps and sawmills. Every once in a while, he was able to go to school.
Despite this, at 17, Bliss had been able to qualify as a teacher. In 1856, he became a schoolmaster at Hartsville, New York, and during the summer he worked on a farm.
In 1857, Bliss met the famous hymn writer, William B. Bradbury who wrote the tune for Jesus Loves Me and the hymn Just As I Am. Bradbury challenged Bliss to become a music teacher and writer. So by 1858, he became a music teacher in Rome Academy, Pennsylvania.
There in the same year he met Lucy Young, they fell in love and were married on June 1, 1859.
At age 22, Bliss took another step out and he became an itinerant music teacher. On horseback, he went from community to community teaching music and carrying his own a melodeon, a portable pump organ.
In 1864, the Blisses moved to Chicago. Bliss was then 26. He became known as a singer and teacher. He began in earnest writing Gospel songs.
In 1869, Bliss made friends with the great preacher, D. L. Moody. Moody and others urged him to give up his job teaching music and become a missionary singer. In 1874, Bliss chose to go where the Lord was leading him and he stepped out and became a full-time evangelist. Bliss by this time was making significant amounts of money from song royalties but he gave them to charity and used only enough to support himself and his family as he served the Lord now as an evangelist.
Then on the 29th of December, 1876, the train on which Bliss and his wife were traveling in approached Ashtabula, Ohio. While the train was crossing a trestle bridge, it collapsed, all the cars fell into the ravine below. Bliss escaped from the wreckage, but as he looked around he realized that his wife was still trapped in the carriages that had now caught fire. Bliss ran back to the burning train cars to try and save Lucy. This was the last that anyone saw of the Blisses, no trace of either body was ever discovered. Ninety-two of the 159 passengers died in what became known as the Ashtabula Disaster. The Blisses left behind their two sons, just four and one years-olds.
Found in his baggage, which somehow survived the crash and fire, were the lyrics of the song "I Will Sing of My Redeemer." It became one of Bliss’ most famous songs so much so that it was one of the first songs recorded by Thomas Edison on his new invention, the phonograph.
Phillip Bliss lived his life always ready to go and serve where God called. He was not afraid of change or challenge. He knew that if God called, he must go. He gave his life and his living away because he knew Jesus had given his life for Phillip Bliss.
When I was young I heard a hymn written by Phillip Bliss that I thought was one of the saddest invitation songs ever written. I think it still might be. Its number 322 in our hymnals.
Almost Persuaded by P. P. Bliss
"Almost persuaded,” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded,” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
“Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call.”
“Almost persuaded,” come, come today;
“Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
Jesus invites you here,
Angels are ling’ring near,
Prayers rise from hearts so dear,
O wand’rer, come.
“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail;
“Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail,
“Almost,” but lost.