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Mar 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 25, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 12

Bigger Than Time

While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and ow much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eat before morning. Exodus 12:1-10

Intro: When I was a child, Dad would occasionally play one of his vinyl LP’s

A favorite was Tennessee E. Ford’s gospel songs album
– the first time I heard, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
• I thought, “No, I don’t remember! I’m only seven years old”
◦ I did not yet understand that sacred history can alter time
• we’ll learn something about this today
– in our journey through Exodus, we have come to the climax of the plagues
• but something odd happens
◦ the main event is overshadowed by a different sort of narration
◦ a bit of story telling is surrounded by a lot of instructions
• God has his own ideas about what is most important

1-13 What was about to happen had a meaning

Where the chapter begins: While Israelites were still in … Egypt
– but the narrative won’t stay here
• it will move forward in space and time (cf. v. 25)
• for now, they have not left Egypt; they have not been liberated
– Regardless, God’s instructions point to the future
• this moves them forward
◦ and they’re able to live in the reality of it, even here and even now
• there’s a way for us to do the same
◦ asking for something we know is God’s will, then give thanks
◦ if we can feel gratitude, it becomes real for us now

From now on…first month – this line is one of several indicators of newness
(spring is the beginning of nature’s new year)
– in previous plagues, they weren’t asked to do anything,
• other than keep themselves out of harm’s way
• now they’re not automatically protected just because they’re Israelites
– what God points to is bigger than the plague event
• it’s their salvation – a revelation and the beginning of a tradition
• God is creating a nation, a people
◦ at the heart of its origin and foundation is his salvation
“I’m not freeing you for the sake of freedom;
I’m buying your freedom for you to become Mine”

Instructions for their protection – a ritual that includes:

  • selection of a lamb or goat
  • killing it at twilight
  • apply blood to sides and top of doorway
  • preparing the meal (vv. 8-10)
  • what to wear (v. 11) – not dress-up, but for travel
  • what will happen (read vv. 12-13)

– two thoughts before moving on:
1. Liminal space (from: Latin for “threshold”)
◦ a transition occurs in liminal space from the old to the new
◦ a space between worlds – where we meet God
◦ liminal time: twilight – liminal place: doorway
2. The death of the lamb
◦ the lamb becomes food for the household – it feeds the family
◦ more importantly, it’s blood saves and protects the family
◦ blood is considered sacred in scripture – too holy to eat
◦ blood has a voice in scripture (cf. Ge. 4:10)
Here the blood signifies,
“A death already occurred in this home; the ransom has been paid”

14-20 One other addition to their meal

They were to include unleavened bread (flat bread, made without yeast, v. 15)

Old Testament professor, Waldemar Janzen points out, “To eat unleavened bread is undoubtedly also a sign of a new beginning. Leaven is a portion of a previously prepared batch of dough left to ferment, so that it can be used in a new batch of dough as the fermenting agent that will make the dough rise. Thus it became a symbol of carrying the past over into the future.”
Paul wrote, Get rid of the old “yeast” . . . . Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old [yeast] of wickedness and evil, but with the new [bread without yeast] of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8)
And Jesus told his disciples, Watch out! Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (representatives of old school righteousness, Mk. 8:15)

– verses 17-20 repeat these instructions, adding a couple of details

21-27 Moses passes God’s instructions on to elders

He adds a word about staying inside, no one may go out . . .
– again, the door – a place of encounter (Ex. 33:8-10)
sin is crouching at the door (Ge. 4:7)
• safety is inside – Yahweh closed the door (of Noah’s ark, Ge. 7:16)

He adds a word about the next generation/s (v. 26)
– the intention of the tradition was not enhance culture or religion
• it was all about the meaning of the ritual – keep the meaning of it alive
– by nature, children are driven to learn
• their curiosity runs non-stop; everywhere, about everything
◦ young minds are curious and playful
◦ old minds are jaded and grim
• the Israelites were told to exploit and respond to their child’s curiosity
◦ use it to draw them into the wonder of God’s salvation

27, all the people bowed down to the ground and worshiped
– signifying their immediate acceptance, surrender, and compliance
• they did not wait until got home to obey

28-36 The final plague hits Egypt

For all the build up, carnage, and dreadful cries of the Egyptians,
– the whole thing is told in only two verses
• this is because the focus has shifted away from Pharaoh
• he no longer had any power over Israel
◦ God’s people are now safe in his embrace
– Pharaoh sent Moses and his people out
• he ordered them to take everything he had haggled over before
◦ vv. 31-32, the Hebrew text has four “also’s”
◦ you and also the rest of the Israelites, also flocks, also herds, bless me also
• several ways to read Pharaoh’s last line:
◦ sarcastic
◦ it will be a blessing just to have you gone
◦ a sincere request (having already witnessed the effectiveness of Moses’ prayers)

37-49 The journey begins

Rameses (1:11), a city the Israelites had built for Pharaoh
– Succoth, “temporary shelters,” lean-to’s
• these the Israelites built for themselves

Further instructions – people who would not be eligible to share Passover
– Israel now has an identity – distinguishable from non-Israelites
• the event they celebrate is what defines them
◦ Yahweh’s redeemed people
• here, more specifically, his “hosts” army
◦ v. 40, the LORD of hosts – Yahweh Sabaoth
◦ sometimes refers to sun, stars and planets; other times the angelic hosts; God’s people

Conclusion: Something weird happens in this chapter

For example, verse 17 combines the past, present and future
Past: I brought your forces out
Present: on this very day
Future: celebrate this day from generation to generation
– and not just this once, but all through the chapter
• notice the phrase, this very day (17, 41 and 51)
• notice the phrase, a law for all time (14, 17 and 24)
– also from generation to generation and you and your descendants

Everett Fox, “In our text, history becomes present event: the hearer is no longer in the audience but actually acts out the story.”

The story part of the chapter is the singular salvation event
– centuries later, a person could ask,
• “Has Yahweh saved me? I wasn’t there. It’s not my exp.”
• but the story takes up very little space
◦ the rest of chapter explains to later generations how to be there
– this chapter answers a question: How can later generations experience this salvation event?
• the answer: This is a day to remember (v. 14, etc.)
• in scripture, “remember” means to bring to awareness in the here and now
◦ it isn’t just recalling a past even
◦ it is bringing something to life in the present

Memory can be a museum where relics of the past are stored or displayed
– or, through faith, it can be a dynamic energy that creates time-warp
• memory can connect the past, the present and the future

Jesus when he introduced the first Communion in his body and blood:
Do this in remembrance of me (2 Cor. 11:24-25)
Paul provided us with this quote, then he goes on to say:
For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again
(v. 26)
The present, past, future come together

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Yes, by the miracle of sacred time, I am there now
And when we take the bread and drink from the cup,
we are with Jesus, the Passover Lamb,
who by his body and blood feeds and saves us

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