The Blood on the Doorpost
17 May 2008, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
THE BLOOD ON THE DOORPOST
This morning I would like to take you back to a time in the Old Testament Scriptures where we find that blood was to save the lives of tens of thousands of young Israelite men. In this experience we discover many truths that should never be forgotten by all Christians in this modern age.
You may remember the remarkable story of God's leading as recorded in the book of Exodus Chapters 7-11. It was at one point during the falling of the plagues in Egypt that Pharaoh compromised his position enough to say: 'All right you can sacrifice to this God of yours, if you will do it here in Egypt (Ex 8: 25).
Moses made it clear that this act was not acceptable, as it would be detested by the Egyptians who reverenced these animals as Gods. Riots and massacres would have been the ultimate result.
On another occasion Pharaoh suggested that they go, but leave their livestock behind. We need to remember that just prior to this response the Egyptian animals had been decimated by the plagues of disease and hail leaving only the Hebrew flocks and herds alive. In one of his most memorable responses Moses made it clear in Ex 10: 26 that '…not a hoof is to be left behind…'
However, it was with the tenth plague of the firstborn that fell on the homes and animal enclosures of the Egyptians that becomes the most notable. While the effects on Egypt were catastrophic, this plague had 'passed over' the dwellings and pastures of the Israelites.
It was then that God instructed Moses to establish the Passover Festival in memory of their deliverance. They were not to forget that night when the destroying angel passed over the homes of the faithful.
The Passover has been rightly called 'the most historical of all historical celebrations in the world' and is still observed by the Jewish people to this day.
If you were sitting around a Jewish family table on the occasion of the Passover, the youngest son, after being coached, would say, 'Why is this night different from all other nights?'
Reading from the Jewish book of tradition called the Haggadah, the father would reply that 'When we were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt God delivered us with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Had God not delivered our ancestors from Egyptian bondage, who knows but that we, our children and our children's children, would have been compelled to serve Pharaoh?'
What was the symbol that the Angel of Death passed over that night?
It was blood from a slain lamb that had been applied to the doorposts of the home.
We need to remember that most pagan religions in the past had their festivals, along with prescribed animal sacrifices being offered in attempts to buy the favour of their Gods. The worshippers at the time may have needed favourable weather for a good harvest or to see the recovery of a sick family member. It was hoped that the sacrifices that were being made would make their God more disposed to grant their petition.
In Old Testament times, the God of heaven prescribed sacrifices in the Jewish system as a means of bringing about change in the behaviour of the worshipper. They were never intended to appease an angry God or to receive favours from Him. Author Ellen White says that they were intended '…to direct men to the Saviour, and thus to bring him into harmony with God (White, 1940: 286).
Seeing an animal slaughtered was intended to be a shock and even more so if a person had to kill it themselves because they had sinned. It brought the worshipper face to face with death, man's worst enemy. It was designed to make people think seriously about the value of life and the availability of that life only through the blood of Christ.
When the Passover lamb was slain, it was to be a reminder that God had not only spared Israel but He had also liberated her from slavery. The natural praise response and thanksgiving of the people can be seen in the many beautiful Psalms found in our Bibles today.
In celebrating the Passover today, the Jewish people imagine themselves back in Egypt trying to sense what it would have been like on that terrifying but glorious night. More than this, however, was the opportunity of experiencing the same faith and commitment of those who were actually there. They were able to renew their covenant with God and acknowledge that they would die eternally if it were not for the blood of the lamb.
When Jesus, 'the lamb of God' was offered, He made obsolete the killing of the Lamb that commemorated a lessor 'passing over'. His death permitted God to 'pass over' that death sentence that every sinner deserves.
Like the Hebrews we show our faith in the Deliverer when we accept the death of Christ in our behalf through participating in the Lord's Supper and through living an obedient life for Him.
Just like modern day Israelites who imagine themselves participating in the first Passover night, Christians, imagine themselves back in old Roman Judea. It is in this setting that they try to sense what they would have felt if they had been there to see Jesus arrested, tried and executed.
Author Paul Sherer in his book 'Love is a Spendthrift' makes it very clear that 'It's the human heart that drives the nails into the hands and feet of God: your heart and mine. It's eternity that is placarded on that cross; while time seems just to march on in front of it! - each generation giving a blow' (Sherer, 1961: 86).
Like those who celebrate the Passover, Christians enjoy a living experience, as they participate by faith in the Lord's Supper.
When we eat the unleavened bread and drink the juice of the grape we renew our dedication to the One who died so that God can 'pass us over' when He looks at our sins.
We need to remember that the ceremonies don't save - Jesus does that - but our faith in what the ceremonies symbolize makes it possible for Him to save us.
However, before we participate in the emblems of the Lord's Supper, let us remember again this morning the importance of forgiveness and the fact that there should be no trace of pride, selfishness or intemperance in our lives as we set our minds on Jesus and His sacrifice.
Like the Jewish father at the Passover, the Christian is able to say that 'When we were slaves of sin, God delivered us with a strong hand and outstretched arm. If He had not delivered our ancestors and us from the bondage we were in, who knows but that we, our children, and our children's children, would have remained lost, and without God in the world?
Dear Friends we all need the blood of Christ and if we accept that blood we should understand that it is continually available. When accepted by faith it banishes gloom and fills the soul with hope and joy (Heb 7: 25). It can cleanse from the very worst of sins (1 John 1: 7) and without it there would be absolutely no hope for any sinner on planet earth. I trust that this special service this morning has reminded us again of the blessings we receive through the blood and wondrous merits of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Sherer, P. (1961) Love is a Spendthrift. New York: Harper & Rowe Publishers, Inc.
White, E. G. (1940) The Desire of Ages. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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