New In Christ #2 - Getting Past the Past - Exodus 12
In Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip, Lucy asks Linus, "Do you think people ever really change?" "Sure," replies Linus, "I feel I've changed a lot this past year." Lucy says, "I meant for the better." - Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
Our theme for the month is “New in Christ” I want to see and experience the power and potential that can change our lives, our families and our communities. I'm really ready for a change and I don't mean another variant of Covid, or more fear about the future. I want to see God’s power of the new. I want all of us this morning to know how God intends for us to change for the better and to become His power for a better change in this fearful, sinful world.
In Exodus 12 God is going to make some changes for Israel. It has been four hundred years of slavery, Four hundred years of aimless, purposeless surviving in the land of slave masters instead of serving their true Master, Jehovah God. Now Moses has came back to Egypt and commissioned by God he tells the Israelites they were to be set free and a new life was to begin. Now all of this change culminates in the 12th chapter of Exodus with the a single event, the Passover.
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 Brings Change
God tells the Israelites that a something new was about to start. It would be a time of significant change.
They will move to new land, and they will live new life. They would become warriors instead of slaves, conquerors instead of subjugated, victorious instead of defeated, hopeful instead of helpless.
So radical would be the changes for God’s people, that from that moment on it would be remembered by marking a New Year of 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 but with the Passover and the exodus from Egypt everything was changed, everything was new.
Be Changed, Cause 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.
Quotes: 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)
Some of us can relate to this quote, “With me, a change of trouble is as good as a vacation.” - David Lloyd George
Here is the one I want you to really thing about, Christians are supposed not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it. - Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969)
This morning what I am challenge you to act on, to understand and even to anticipate is that our God is a God of change and we intends to use us to bring change to the people and world around us.
God Himself cannot change because he is God, He is immutable. But because he is God he will change the world and people in it. The Bible is a record of God changing one thing after the other, from creation, to the flood, to the beginning of the nation of Israel, to King David, to the exile, to the return of Israel, to the birth of Jesus, to the start of the church, to the return of Jesus as King, to the new Jerusalem, and the New Heaven and earth.
God changes things. He changes hearts, he changes nations, he sets history in a new direction and He changes churches and people just like us all the time.
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 powerful truths, but they will not mean anything to us, unless we accept and apply them to ourselves on a personally level. We must come face to face with the God of change and know what that will mean in our lives and future.
And we must also realize that once we are change by the power of God then we must go and become agents of change in others.
Here in Exodus, the Israelites had to go from Egypt, from their homes, away from their own lives and change from a population of Egyptian slaves to a nation of warrior servants for Jehovah. And then they would change the Canaan from a land filled with the worst forms of idolatry, paganism and child sacrifice to the Promised Land. They would be God’s agents for change.
It was not easy, but it was necessary and by God’s will and power it was worth the losses.
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. And until we change, we can’t be used by God to bring change to a world that so desperately needs to change.
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson
Who Moved My Cheese? is a parable about change that takes place in a Maze where four characters look for “Cheese”—cheese being a metaphor for what we want in life. In this context this morning I would make it the blessings and rewards of God in this life.
In the story, Sniff, Scurry, Hem, and Haw are four characters that live in a maze, each searching for their own special cheese to nourish them.
The mice, Sniff and Scurry, use trial-and-error method until they find the cheese, find a way of dealing with the change and keep going. The two Littlepeople, Hem and Haw, have to deal with their emotions after discovering someone moved their cheese and a their own sense of entitlement and inertia about having to change. In the end Haw goes looking, he enjoys the challenge and the change and finds “the cheese!” But his buddy Hem, well he stays back at the place where they used to find the cheese… until he shrivels up dies. (It doesn’t actually say that but that’s how I would picture it.)
As a pastor and a Christian when I read that story, I pictured myself, I pictured brothers and sister in churches I had been a member of and others I had pastored. Some accepted the changes, saw them as challenges and trusted in the Lord to overcome and even grow stronger through those changes and challenges. Others well, they just sat there until they shriveled up and died.
Change is part of life, often God is working to change things and us and we are to rise to the challenge and even become the spark that brings change to others.
Back in Exodus, God had a plan for getting His work of change started, its in verse 3 where we begin to see the…
New Life - 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 Changes the Calendar With The Passover
The single event that for the Hebrews, would make the new break free from the old was the Passover. It had never been done before, it was a change it was new, it was from God.
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 prepared the lintels of their home and 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, changed from slaves to seekers and finally to soldier for Jehovah.
God Changes Us With the Passover Lamb
Just as God brought new life to the Israelites through a slain lamb, He brings new life to us through THE slain lamb, Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist sent by God to prepare the way, saw Jesus coming toward him at the Jordan River and he calls out, in John 1:29 “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Peter who was one of John’s disciples and later one of Jesus’ apostles says, in 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:
That lamb back in Exodus at the first Passover was a picuture a foreshadowing of the real lamb of God, the real sacrifice for freedom from sin and slavery, Jesus Christ. If there is to be a new life for us it must be through the blood of the Lamb of God.
He is our salvation from sin. He is our Savior from slavery. He is our deliverer from death.
We must 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. If they had not taken the hyssop brush, dipped it in the blood and sprinkled that blood over the door, they could not have been set free.
Unless we see ourselves applying the shed blood of Christ to our sin, our lives, our soul, then we cannot be free. But if we will, then we can really change and we can bring change. A change from fear to hope, from sorrow to joy, from death to life.
The power of God to change us and to bring change through us is miraculous and it can do miraculous things. Take the story of …
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, wit, eloquence and influence at the feet of his Lord. He adopted this motto as his life’s mission, “Whatsoever others do, as for me, I will serve the Lord.”
God changed William Wilberforce and William Wilberforce changed England and the world. For decades he worked in Parliament until finally slavery was outlawed in England and then that influence began to free all slaves in the Christian nations throughout the world. And don’t be fooled, the only place that slavery is outlawed in the world today, is where Christ is proclaimed and believed. It was Christians like Wilberforce and thousands of others that brought that change. The kind of change only God can bring, first with one heart and life and then with that one life, He can change everything.
One last lesson we need to also understand from Exodus 12, change means going where God tells us to go.
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 Tells Israel, Go!
God tells His people to prepare to go. They are to be dressed, have their staff, (their walking stick) in the hands and shoes on their feet. Then, 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 placed the blood of the Passover lamb upon the doorposts of their home. While those who rejected God and His word would not. They would remain in the land of sin and slavery.
When the death angel passed over that night it would start the change. And from that day forth, they would keep the Passover as a memorial of that change. The power of God, through the blood of a slain lamb, had delivered them from Egypt’s chains and set them free to seek the promises of God.
We are talking about change but God and the way He deals with us, that doesn’t change. God is still telling us, Go!
God Tells Us, Go!
Throughout the Bible God tells His own to go. In the Old Testament, he told Abraham to leave Ur and go. He told Jacob to go back home. He told the Sons of Israel to go to Egypt and 400 years later He told them to go and conquer the promised land. He tells his prophets to go and confront evil kings and He tells His faithful Kings to go and defeat His enemies.
In the New Testament, He sends His Son and Jesus then tells his apostles to go throughout Israel and when Jesus returns to heaven, then the church is told to Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
We are supposed to be people on the go. But we won’t be able to go unless we are prepared when God tells us specifically to go, to change, to leave the old and go to the promises of the new in Jesus Christ.
To be prepared we must be dressed in the robes of righteousness. We must have our staff, the Word of God, in our hands. And we must have our feet shod ready to spread the Gospel and affect change in the world around us.
This morning are you ready to go? Have you applied the blood of the slain lamb of God to the doorposts of your heart? Have you partaken of the lamb sacrificed on Calvary for you, or will you face the death angel unprepared and alone?
What about us as a church? Are we being God’s agents of change in our community and in our families? If God should open a door of opportunity for us would we be prepared, ready to go through it?
Each of us must ask ourselves, Am I ready to move when God says go?
Those who are ready, will go on to the more blessings in the ever newness of God promises. Those who are not will stay behind and miss the blessing that come when God calls His own to go.
On Beyond Zebra
To finish this morning I want end with a reading from one of the great minds in theology and literature, Dr. Seuss. In the classic book, “On Beyond Zebra,” Dr. Seuss talks about launching out into the new and if Dr. Suess understood this then we as God’s children who are supposed to be agents of change in this world, really need to accept the challenge.
Said Conrad Cornelius O'Donnell O'Dell, my very young friend who was learning to spell, “The A is for Ape, the B is for Bear, the C is for Camel, the H is for Hair, the M is for Mouse, the R is for Rat ... I know all twenty-six letters like that. Through to Z is for Zebra, I know them all well,” said Conrad Cornelius O'Donnell O'Dell. “Now I know everything anyone knows from beginning to end, from the start to the close, because Z is as far as the alphabet goes.”
Then he almost fell flat on his face on the floor when I picked up the chalk and drew one letter more. A letter he had never dreamed of before. And I said, “You can stop if you want with the Z, and most people stop with the Z, but not me. In the places I go, there are things that I see that I never could spell if I stopped with a Z.
“I'm telling you this ‘cause you're one of my friends, my alphabet starts where your alphabet ends. My alphabet starts with this letter called yezz, it's the letter I use to spell yezzametezz. You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found, once you go beyond Z and start poking around. So on beyond zebra explore like Columbus, discover new letters like wum, which is for wumbus, my high-spouting whale who lives high on a hill and who never comes down till it's time to refill. So on beyond Z, it's high time you were shown that you really don't know all there is to be known.
That’s just a fun reading from Dr. Suess, it makes an impression in our minds, but what God’s commands makes an impact in our hearts.
Matthew 28:18-20 The Great Commission
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is
given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Change happens and we can be changed by it, or we can be the change through the power of God. The world’s changes will always be downward, we are called by God to change things upward. Let us be that change.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.