As I was reflecting on this rather different time we are living in, a theme that has been coming up is that of worshipping God in the wilderness. Naomi has posted worship videos that so we can join together even in our socially distant “wildernesses”. Derek referred to the idea of “wilderness” in his short address, posted on March 19 on our church website and fb page. Turns out, I have been studying Exodus also, and noticed a number of things I’d like to share.
Often when I have heard commentary on the saga of the Exodus, when God (through Moses) demands the Pharaoh “Let My people go!” the emphasis is on the “getting out of Egypt” part. However, if you read the account carefully in a good study bible the phrase does not stop there. God demanded Pharaoh release His people from bondage so that they could “serve Him in the desert”. (Ex 7:16, 8:1,20, 9:1,13, 10:3,7,24-26) or more specifically that the people might “sacrifice to the LORD” (Ex3:18, 5:1 specifically “celebrate a feast” 5:3, 8:8,25-28, 10:24-26) And of course, there was also the ultimate goal of entering “the Promised Land”, a land of milk and honey promised to Abram and His descendants centuries prior to the events of the Exodus. (See Genesis 12:1-7)
How is this significant for us today? This was, of course, a pivotal time in the history of the nation of Israel. Even today, Passover and the feast of Unleavened bread remain among the most important feasts to the Jews, both religiously and culturally. Sadly, it appears likely that most of the world will be celebrating the Passover/Easter feasts in their homes this year owing to the Covid19 related restrictions on large gatherings. Of course, celebrating at home is normal for the Jewish festival, but it seems likely that it might be with smaller family groups and without synagogue services in 2020. Likewise, Christians will probably be celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Christ in small family groups this year. So, as many of us self-isolate, we may feel more than ever like we’re in a kind of wilderness.
What was the significance at that time to Moses and the people of God?
The pivotal passages are Exodus 12 to 15, from the tenth plague to the crossing of the Red Sea to freedom. No doubt, you will know the story, butI will quote the most important part here:
In Ex 12 the LORD send the angel of death through Egypt to slay all the first born: “from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” (Ex11:4-5)
But God had a way out for His people. The Jews were instructed to “take a lamb for themselves…a lamb for each household…Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or the goats.
“And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then…kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat. And they shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire. And they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs…you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste – it is the LORD’s Passover.
“For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night and will strike down all the firstborn of the land of Egypt, both man and beast: and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments – I Am the LORD.
“And the blood shall be for a sign for you on the houses where you live; 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.” (see Exodus 12:1-13, selected)
No doubt, any Jesus follower who takes the time to meditate on this will understand the clear parallels. I even remember a song we sang with the children that went:
“Passover, passover, You must pass over me!
For see: the blood is overhead.
Passover, passover, You must pass over me,
For see: the Lamb has died instead.
Refrain: I will live, I will live, I will live, Giving praise to the Eternal One,
I will live, I will live, I will live, Giving praise unto the Lord!”
John the Baptizer, made it clear when he pointed to Jesus and declared: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)
So, those of us who believe that Jesus (“Yeshua” in Hebrew) is the Messiah, understand the significance of this history.
The point is that the obedient Jews (believers) were set free (redeemed) from bondage (slavery) to Pharoah (the prince of darkness) by the blood of the lamb (Jesus’ blood) applied to their doors (heart/life) in obedience (faith). (Christian parallel in brackets) This required trusting in God’s way of doing things, which must have seemed strange to some at the time…but having seen His power in the previous 9 plagues, they dared not disobey. They applied the lamb’s blood to their doors.
So, time for some application questions:
We are in a time when many live in fear and may be freshly aware of their mortality. Fear stalks the world in the form of a microscopic virus. Have you made provisions for the life to come? Do you have absolute assurance that when you die (as die we all will, eventually), the Creator will receive you into His blessed Presence forever? I sincerely hope so, and if you are reading this on our church page, I trust faith rises up in your heart to answer, “Yes”.
However, I feel led to “cover the bases”, so to speak…So in case any of you are in doubt of your need for God, here goes. I for one know that if it depended on my “goodness”, then I don’t deserve to spend eternity with a Holy, Perfect but Loving Creator God. I’ve blown it, in many ways, at many times. Mostly because, like all humans, my view of things is distinctly “ego-centric”. Even on a “love thy neighbour” level, I am not all knowing, and therefore I lack the ability to understand and empathize fully with the needs of others. We are incapable of keeping God’s law of Love (and without Him, we would not even be aware of our need to do so). No-one, myself most definitely included, has ever perfectly, humbly loved and obeyed God and perfectly loved their neighbour every second of their life…
And if you do believe that you need a Savior and that Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah, (for Jews and Gentiles alike) have you, metaphorically speaking, “applied the blood to the door of your heart”? Have you taken a step of faith and asked God to forgive you for ignoring Him, for living an egocentric life and received His forgiveness based solely on the cross-work of Christ? You can because His Grace is enough for you!
And if that’s a resounding “Yes!”, and you been set free from slavery to sin then Hallelujah! But what are you set free FOR? GOD set His people free from slavery in Egypt that they might go out into the wilderness to serve Him, worship Him and obey Him. What did the worship in the wilderness look like and what does that mean for us?
In the time of Moses, it meant paying attention to the revelation God gave and obeying His instructions (see the rest of the Pentateuch!) for the nation of Israel. Of course, now we have the accumulated revelation of the whole Old and New Testaments. We have Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all God’s Promises. For all of God’s promises are “Yes!” And “Amen!” In Him. He is not just our “way of Life”, He is our Life!
So, “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1) Let us “Fix our eyes on Jesus” and “run the race with endurance, laying aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb 12:1-2 etc), Let us continue encouraging one another as long as it is called today even though we can’t meet in person. Let us “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody (or at least a joyful noise!) in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks in all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father, and be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”(Eph 5:18-21) Call a friend. Pray with someone over the phone. Sing a song of praise together on Skype, send a (clean)card in the mail(?). Be creative about connecting with each other. Offer to help neighbours if you are able. Share the Good News that God has not abandoned us in the wilderness! He cares. He hears. He will answer every heart that cries out to Him. May many come to faith in Jesus as a result of this unprecedented time.
Ultimately God set His people free to lead them INTO the promised land. BROUGHT OUT in order to ENTER IN.
But Into what? What’s the parallel for us as believers today?
Is “crossing the Jordan” synonymous with passing from life to the afterlife as many hymns and gospel songs allude? Stay tuned…this is more than enough for us to chew on for now!
By Wellspring Brookes