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Micah 3-5: No pain, no gain

Martin Luther King once said, “Nothing WORTHWHILE is gained without SACRIFICE.” The Australian version certainly isn’t as fancy, but at least it’s shorter! “No pain, no gain”. In other words, good, beneficial things often only come as a result of struggles or difficulties.

It’s a principle that has all sorts of applications in life. Removing splinters, or stitching a wound. Or training for a sporting event. Getting fit. Studying for an exam. Establishing a successful business. Learning to skateboard. Physiotherapy after an operation. Each of them has pain, or a struggle or a difficulty you have to bear/ before you can enjoy the pleasure, or the achievement. In fact, the pain is NECESSARY to achieving the GAIN.

Or here’s one we find in today’s passage from Micah. A woman suffering the pains of labour and childbirth before the joy of a new baby. There’s no way around it. The joy of a new baby comes BECAUSE of the pain of labour. The pain has a purpose. As more than one midwife said to Caron over the course of four deliveries, “Yes, it hurts! But it’s POSITIVE pain. Because you’ll get a baby at the end! Focus on that!” (Though I’m not sure how helpful Caron found it at the time!)

And Micah uses the same picture of LABOUR PAINS to illustrate what Jerusalem will go through with the pain of her invasion, destruction and exile. Did you notice it? There in Ch 4 v9.

9Why do you now cry aloud–      have you no king? Has your counselor perished,      that pain seizes you LIKE THAT OF A WOMAN IN LABOR? 10Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion,      LIKE A WOMAN IN LABOR, for now you must leave the city      to camp in the open field. You will go to Babylon;
Remember the situation Micah’s talking about? God’s patience has finally run out at the sin of his people. First – Israel in the north. Assyria will make the capital city, Samaria, a pile of rubble. And second, Judah, and her capital Jerusalem, is FACING THE SAME FATE. We saw in chapter 2 how God hated their greed and injustice – the rich abusing the poor.

There’s more of the same in chapter 3, where Micah zooms in on the HAVES. On those with the responsibility to look after the people. Like ch 3 v9

9 Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob      you rulers of the house of Israel,  who despise justice      and distort all that is right 10 who build Zion with bloodshed,       and Jerusalem with wickedness. 11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,      her priests teach for a price,      and her prophets tell fortunes for money. 12 Yet they lean upon the Lord and say,      “Is not the Lord among us?      No disaster will come upon us.”

And so Micah gives the warning at the end of ch 3. V12.

Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

That’s the context of Ch 4 v9, where Micah describes the pain of Jerusalem’s destruction LIKE A WOMAN IN LABOUR.

So how can the destruction of a city/ be like LABOUR PAINS? Where’s the GAIN at the end of the PAIN? Look again at what Micah says. Firstly, v9.

9Why do you now cry aloud–      HAVE YOU NO KING? HAS YOUR COUNSELOR PERISHED,      that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labor?

Micah’s reminding their situation isn’t hopeless. GOD is their king. GOD is their counsellor and guide. He’s got a plan he’s working out. And his plan is/ there’ll be GAIN at the end of the PAIN. Look at v10. (There’ll be the pain of exile to Babylon). But look at how the verse FINISHES.

(You will go to Babylon)      there you will be RESCUED. There the Lord will REDEEM you       out of the hand of your enemies.

That’s the GAIN at the end of the PAIN.

A couple of interesting things to note. Firstly, did you notice who the enemy is? It’s Babylon. Who are not even on the scene in 730BC, when Micah’s prophesying. It’s ASSYRIA who are storming the borders. Samaria hasn’t been defeated yet. That’s 722BC. Babylon won’t rise for another hundred years.

So, SECONDLY, what that means is that Micah’s warning actually proved effective! Micah WARNED Judah judgement was coming. But it didn’t fall for over 100 years. Because Jeremiah 26:18 tells us that King Hezekiah LISTENED to Micah’s warning, and sought to follow God, and God RELENTED and didn’t bring the evil he’d warned them about.

But even though God’s SLOW to anger, he knows that his patience will, again, run out. It lasts through the end of the Assyrian empire. Until Babylon rises to power. And then, 140 years later, defeats Jerusalem, and the Jews ARE exiled to Babylon. Just like Micah predicts.

So that’s the BAD NEWS. (The PAIN of judgment, defeat and exile.) But what’s the GOOD NEWS? The GAIN of what God will do AFTER THE PAIN? Micah sprinkles it generously through chapters 4 and 5.

Let’s begin FIRST with Ch 4 v11. (in v10 God’s promised that he’ll rescue his people from Babylon after their exile – off in the future).

But that’s LATER. V11 jumps back to THE PRESENT.

“But NOW, many nations are gathered against you.”

Assyria, among others, is eyeing off Judah. (That’s the PAIN). But, v12, they don’t know God’s plans. He’ll judge THEM, TOO. In fact, v13, Israel will somehow be God’s instrument in bringing that justice against the nations. (That’s the “GAIN”).

(Into chapter 5). (Off into the FUTURE again) V1, Armies would lay siege to Jerusalem, and even strike Israel’s king – probably Babylon who blinded King David’s descendant, Zedekiah, before he was led off to exile. (Pain)

But v2, here’s the GAIN. (A promise for the future). God will raise up a ruler from Bethlehem, King David’s town. Just like he promised David. A descendant for the throne. And, v4, he’ll shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, and they’ll dwell securely, and live in peace. (Gain).

But before that “GAIN”, v3, there’s PAIN. Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labour gives birth. In other words, until the time of the exile is over.

It’s likely Micah and the people expected some IMMEDIATE fulfilment – an earthly Davidic descendant to rule an earthly kingdom soon after the exile. But no one can identify a likely historical figure.

The BEST match, of course, is JESUS. 500 years into the future. When the wise men turn up in Jerusalem looking for the new king who’s been born, V2 is quoted by the Bible experts to King Herod. They say the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.

And his origins really ARE from of old (v2). And he really DOES shepherd his flock in God’s strength (v4), and his flock really DO dwell securely. And his reputation really HAS reached to the ends of the earth.

It’s the ultimate GOOD that God works out after the PAIN of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile.

(The REST of chapter 5 seems to jump back to the immediate future for Micah. How Judah will deal with Assyria. And there are GOOD things God works through THAT, TOO.)

In the last days

But what I want to do is jump back to the start of chapter four. And even GREATER good things that come after the pain of exile. As we do, we actually seem to jump FORWARD in time. Notice how chapter four begins, “in the last days”. This will be the final reality. God’s LAST WORD. There’s nothing else that comes AFTER it.

Chapter 3 finishes with the image of Zion plowed like a field. V12. Jerusalem a heap of rubble. And the temple hill, a heap of dirt overgrown with thickets. (The PAIN of defeat.) But look at the contrast with ch 4 v1.

1 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established      as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills,      and peoples will stream to it.

First of all, some time in the future, God will RESTORE the temple mount. God will raise it – not PHYSICALLY – but IN SIGNIFICANCE. The most important high place and temple around.

Because, secondly, it will be a magnet for the nations. And v2, they’ll come to find out about the one, true God.

2 Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,      to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways,      so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion,      the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Notice that they’re not just LEARNING about God’s ways. They’re OBEYING them – walking in his paths.

And, look at v3, there’ll be justice and peace. God will judge them fairly. Which is an improvement on Judah’s leaders BEFORE the exile! GOD as their leader, judge and teacher.

3 He will judge between many peoples      and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares      and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,      nor will they train for war anymore. 4 Every man will sit under his own vine      and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid,      for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

There’ll be UNITY, without UNIFORMITY. National distinctives remain, but there’ll be world-wide PEACE between nations. And you won’t need a sword, or spear, anymore. You can turn them all into farming equipment.

And how’s this for a picture of rest and contentment, v4?! Every man sits under his own vine and fig tree.

And just in case you think it’s uncertain, or unrealistic. Look at the last line of v4. “For the LORD Almighty has spoken!” God always keeps his word! You can TRUST IT!

(Jump over v5 – we’ll come back to it in a moment) Then verses 6-8 give a few more details. God will gather, not just THE NATIONS, but the LAME, the EXILES, a REMNANT – a faithful portion of Israel. (Those he’s protected through the exile). And God will rule over them in Mount Zion FOREVER.

It’s a wonderful picture. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve got QUESTIONS: When will this be? Is it for some time in history? (Because it never happened like that for Israel! And they’re still waiting!) Or is it about ETERNITY – OUTSIDE of history?

And is the description LITERAL, or SYMBOLIC? In what sense does Jesus fulfil this picture? Does he REPLACE the physical temple as the focus for people to gather around?

Or should we be looking for the re-establishment of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem? (That’s certainly the way MANY Christians interpret it, especially in America.)

And what’s the PURPOSE of this promise? Why announce it, if it’s far off in the future? What difference did it make for Micah’s hearers? And what difference should it make for us today?

And if that’s the certain glorious future, why do we have to GO THROUGH ALL THE DIFFICULTIES TO GET THERE? Why does God WAIT until the last days? Why not just jump straight to the GLORY? Why the labour pains before the birth?

For what it’s worth, here’s my view. It’s describing ETERNITY. When God brings THIS world to an end, and brings a NEW heaven and a NEW earth into existence. And the New Testament talks about it in more details. When we, TOO, are given eternal, glorious resurrection bodies. And sin is defeated. And there’s no more suffering. No more PAIN, only GAIN.

Is it literal or symbolic? Yes! I think eternity will be just like BITS of this. EARTHLY, and paradise, and united and peaceful.

But since Micah prophesied these words, JESUS HAS COME, and FULFILLED them. HE is the temple, where God and man meet. The One the nations stream to. And God’s merciful sacrifice who satisfies his justice for our sin. And he’s the PRIEST, who represents us to God, and God to us. And he’s the TEACHER. The One who IS the Word of God, guiding and teaching the nations. And he’s the one God’s appointed to be the Judge of all by raising him from the dead.

He’s the descendant of King David, the shepherd who gathers his sheep. The One who every knee will bow before. And who every tongue, in every language, will confess is LORD.

And what’s the POINT? What practical difference should it make for how we live today? Have a look at v5 that we jumped over before. I think it’s best to take it as A RESPONSE from the people who hear the description of God’s glorious future.

V4 finishes the prophecy about the last days with “For the LORD Almighty has spoken”. And the people respond

All the nations may walk      in the name of THEIR gods; WE will walk in the name of the Lord      our God for ever and ever.

In other words, from NOW, as we hear the promise, until the day God brings it to pass, we’ll walk in the name of the LORD. We’ll show we trust God’s promises for the future, even in the midst of the labour pains, by living God’s way. Obeying him even when it seems like foolishness. Hoping expectantly that GAIN will come after the PAIN.

In that sense, this picture of eternity works like that midwife, who encourages the mother going through labour pains. “Focus on the GOAL. Forget the pain. Soon you’ll have a beautiful baby to hold.”

But it also does SOMETHING ELSE. It doesn’t just give us hope for a DIFFERENT life. It SHAPES THE LIFE WE LIVE NOW. It guides and fuels and inspires us to make the characteristics of God’s ETERNAL kingdom/ a PRESENT REALITY. Justice and compassion and peace and mercy. With God at the centre of it all.

That’s the FUTURE, but it’s also our AGENDA for THE PRESENT. It’s anticipatory. Aspirational. Visionary. It’s a target to be aiming for.

And as the church DOES that, the world begins to catch a glimpse of, and a HUNGER for, GOD and his kingdom.

But here’s one final question to think about: If the future’s so good, why doesn’t God just jump straight to it? Why not avoid the LABOUR and go straight to the DELIVERY? Why not skip the PAIN, and get straight to the GAIN?

For ISRAEL, Micah’s taught us the EXILE was necessary to REFINE and SHAPE his people. To gather a faithful remnant, who FOLLOW him. To humble a people who’d TURN TO HIM. That was the GAIN at the end of the PAIN.

And he’s doing the same thing in the world TODAY. The same thing IN YOUR life. And MY life. The difficulties. The injustices. The suffering. The discipline. It HUMBLES us. And makes us groan and long for eternity. And makes us depend on God. And grows us like Jesus. And teaches us patience.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN is a general principle in life. But it’s also a SPIRITUAL one. And it’s one God uses to prepare you for his glorious eternity. Listen to these wonderful promises:

Romans 5:3: We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, HOPE. NO PAIN, NO GAIN

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the GLORY that will be revealed in us. NO PAIN, NO GAIN

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to BE CONFORMED TO THE LIKENESS OF HIS SON. NO PAIN, NO GAIN

And here’s ONE MORE. Hebrews 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons… God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, IT PRODUCES A HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE for those who have been trained by it. (Say it with me, NO PAIN, NO GAIN)

How do I respond to the labour pains of God’s discipline? In humility and trust, I work out justice, mercy and godliness, inspired by the vision of God’s glorious future kingdom

As Micah 4:5 says All the nations may walk       in the name of THEIR gods;  WE will walk in the name of the Lord       our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Exodus 11-15: The One Who Redeems

It seems the American elections are decided. But what will be almost as interesting is THE BLAME GAME that follows. Who made mistakes? Whose FAULT it was. People are happy to take credit for the VICTORY. But they’re not so quick to take the blame for the LOSS

And many people ask similar questions as they read about the Passover, and death of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Perhaps they’re ANGRY with God. Or just PUZZLED. It seems so unfair that innocent people and animals DIE just because Pharaoh was stubborn. Why did God have to do it THAT way? Why not some OTHER way?

1. God acts

But there’s no way of avoiding the fact. One of the really obvious things to notice in these chapters is that God ACTS. It’s full of what God SAYS and DOES. He doesn’t just sit back and watch what’s going on. He’s the main player. The star of the show.

HE brings the plagues. HE hardens Pharaoh’s heart. HE makes the Egyptians look on the Israelites with favour. HE kills the first born. HE baits Pharaoh into a trap in the Red Sea. HE make the sea crash back and drown all the Egyptians. It’s God who KNOWS what’s going to happen. And it’s God who MAKES it happen too. The God of the Bible is a God WHO ACTS IN HISTORY. Whatever decision you come to about these terrible, awesome events, you can’t get away from the fact that God’s RESPONSIBLE for them.

Which means he’s responsible for all the things that happen in OUR lives, TOO. Not just the GOOD things, but the BAD things TOO. For cancer and COVID and natural disasters and the suffering or death of loved ones. We might debate the precise wording – whether he ALLOWS them, or whether he BRINGS them. BUT HE’S THE KING OVER IT ALL.

There’s a MYSTERY here, because God is PERFECTLY GOOD, and yet isn’t the AUTHOR of evil. He’s the sovereign KING, who’s also the righteous JUDGE who holds us accountable for our decisions. He rules with perfect wisdom and goodness. But it’s over A FALLEN WORLD, where there’s sin and brokenness and pain and death.

And many of you have EXPERIENCED these things over the last few years. And STILL ARE. Situations where I’m sure your non-Christian friends have either said, or at least THOUGHT, “How can you still believe in God with everything that’s happened to you?”

But what other option do we have? Either God’s there, but he isn’t INTERESTED. Or else, he’s not there at all. Both of which are, surely, worse. Because IF GOD’S NOT CONTROLLING THINGS, then everything’s just RANDOM. There’s no purpose or plan. There’s just NOTHING. Which is hopeless. And depressing,

But what’s so good about believing in the God of the Bible is that the God CONTROLS EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS. He’s sovereign. Whatever happens – no matter HOW PAINFUL. No matter whether we UNDERSTAND it or not. He’s got a good reason for it. He LOVES us, and he’s working all those things FOR OUR GOOD.

That’s the FIRST, high level, observation from these chapters. GOD ACTS.

2. God acts for his people (12-13):

Second, zooming in a little closer. God acts for HIS PEOPLE. (Which is where the COMFORT comes as we endure tough times.) He doesn’t just pick ANY OLD group. It’s ISRAEL he makes PROMISES TO, and CALLS, and GROWS. And we saw last week, it’s Israel he’ll RESCUE.

God sends nine plagues on Egypt. And after each one, Pharaoh’s given the chance to let Israel go, But he DOESN’T. At the end of Ch 10, the plague of darkness hasn’t worked either. So we get to Ch 11. And God plays his final card. Keeps the worst ‘til last. Verse 1

“Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring ONE MORE PLAGUE on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely.”

This is it! The last roll of the dice. We know what’s coming. Back in ch 4 v21. At the burning bush. God had told Moses to say to Pharaoh

‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, {23} and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'””

This is God the FATHER jealously defending and rescuing HIS SON. The death of Egypt’s first-born isn’t simply an act of BRUTALITY, or VENGEANCE. IT’S SENDING A MESSAGE. “The anguish you feel for your son – is the anguish I feel for Israel. The LOVE you feel for your son is the love I feel for Israel”.

Into Ch 12. And he gives HIS PEOPLE a part to play, too. They SHOW they trust their father by obeying his instructions. They’re to pack up everything. Sacrifice a lamb. Paint its blood on the doorposts. Don’t add yeast to the bread, because God says he’s coming SOON. They’re to eat with their travelling clothes on, and their shoes on their feet. And GET READY/ because God’s about to act. And that’s what they do. V28 says they did everything God commanded.

Now all they can do is wait. Wait for God to ACT. To save. And to destroy. They finish dinner. It’s ten o’clock. Still waiting. Conversation slows. Kids fall asleep. Eleven o’clock. Still waiting. Everything’s silent now. The anticipation grows.

Perhaps they begin to look at each other, questioning, “What if nothing happens?” “What if God doesn’t do anything?” Still waiting. Then Verse 29. God acts.

“At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. {30} Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”

One action: Salvation and judgement. Mercy and punishment. Life and death. Israel’s protected. Egypt’s attacked. Tragedy and joy. All on the same night. After all the detailed instructions of Ch 12, the description of THE EVENT ITSELF is surprisingly BRIEF.

Then v31, Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron, and tells them to go. He’s had enough. He’s finally learned his lesson. He’s FINALLY understood who God is. Who ISRAEL is. What it means/ for God to love Israel as a first-born son. God’s WON. But look at his last words. Not a parting shot. Not a final defiant stand. Look at them. Verse 32. “AND ALSO BLESS ME”. They’re the words of a beaten man. The quiet recognition that he’s lost. That GOD is the one who controls things in Egypt AFTER ALL. And not him.

And so all Israel goes, v37. Six hundred thousand men. (Women, children, and animals too). Everyone goes out into the desert. He’s done it. He’s acted in history. And he’s acted for his people.

But the story’s not finished, is it? The job’s only half done. Because Pharaoh hasn’t REALLY learned his lesson. Jump ahead to Ch 14. Verse 1. God tells Moses to camp near the sea. Not to go the shortest way through the desert. Almost like bait in a trap. Look at verse 3. Camp by the sea, then PHARAOH WILL THINK they’re wandering around. That they’re lost. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart. And then in v 5 that’s what happens. Pharaoh has second thoughts, and comes after Israel with his army.

Israel’s petrified – no wonder! And they complain to Moses. But this time, instead of passing on their complaint to God, Moses says, v13,

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you’ll see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; you need only to be still.”

Then in v21 Moses stretches out his hand over the sea, and during the night God divides the waters. Israel walks through the middle on dry land. Imagine it! A wall of surging black water on the right and a wall on the left. It’s night-time. Not much light. A million people walking quietly down towards the water, and across the sandy floor of the sea. Eery! And AMAZING! And SCARY, too!

But look at v23. It’s still night, and the Egyptians realise Israel are getting away. They arrive at the seashore, see all the footprints heading down into the sea. And the walls of water, with the dry path through the middle.

Can you imagine being an Egyptian soldier? Especially one who’s lived through the ten plagues. I reckon he’d be pretty wary. The mossie bites are still itching, the boils are still healing, the memories of his dead son is still fresh.

But Pharoah’s cracking the whip. So, v23, they start chasing. Down into the sea, across the seabed they go. Chariots, horses, soldiers. Chasing Israel.

But now it’s nearly sunrise. When most surprise attacks happen. And, v24, God looks down from the cloud at what’s happening, and throws the army into confusion. Wheels coming off chariots. Horses rearing up. Shouting, noise and chaos.

V25, the Egyptians realise it’s GOD who’s fighting them, and they try to get away. But, v27, Moses stretches his hand over the sea, and it goes back to its place. And Pharaoh’s army is drowned. Look at verse 28

“The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen–the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. {29} But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. {30} That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying on the shore.”

And so for Israel it’s time to praise God. That’s ch 15. He’s saved his first-born son. It’s MIRACULOUS and MARVELOUS and AWE-INSPIRING. And – at least for a little while – Israel’s prepared to follow God and Moses.

But we can’t help asking the question, “Why THIS particular way? Why so messy?” God could quite easily have SOFTENED Pharaoh’s heart. But all the way through these chapters we read that he HARDENED it. God COULD have worked things so that no-one got killed at all. Like Nehemiah. About 1000 years later Israel’s in exile in Babylon. And Nehemiah’s the king’s wine taster. All he has to do is look SAD. The king asks him what’s wrong. He says he wants to go home to Jerusalem. And the king says, “Okay”!

How simple’s that! Couldn’t God have worked the Exodus like that? But he didn’t. He did things this way for a reason. And if you look closely he tells us EXACTLY why. Again and again. Look back at Ch 9 v16 for example.

4. God acts for his glory

God works – as he always does – FOR HIS GLORY. To show people what he was like. From v15, He’s talking, through Moses, to Pharaoh.

For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. {16} But I have raised you UP FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE, that I might SHOW YOU MY POWER and THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED IN ALL THE EARTH.”

Or Ch 14 v4

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will GAIN GLORY FOR MYSELF through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.”

And again in v17, and again in v18.

This is God’s ultimate purpose in the events of the Exodus. TO BRING GLORY TO HIMSELF. (Acclaim. Honour. Recognition.) He wanted Israel, AND EGYPT, to know that he, alone, was God.

And, at least to BEGIN with, it WORKED. Chapter 14 finishes with this summary, v31.

And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people FEARED the LORD and PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM and in Moses his servant.

And the big message of the Bible is that God wants US to DO THE SAME. TO RECOGNISE and give GLORY to him. To FEAR him, and TRUST him.

You see, God may not have rescued US from Egypt. But the story of the Exodus gives the rest of the Bible the language to describe what God’s done for us. It’s “SHADOWS” to our “REALITY”. “Black and white cartoons” to our “high definition colour”. WE need rescuing by God, TOO. The Bible describes our rebellion and sin as SLAVERY we need REDEEMING from. God saved his people THEN with the innocent blood of a lamb. And he saves us TODAY by the innocent of a lamb – Jesus who died on the cross. Back then, one lamb protected one household. But Jesus was the perfect Passover Lamb for ALL HUMANITY. For ALL sin.

As glorious as the Exodus was, what’s REALLY incredible is that Jesus’ frail and broken body hanging on a cross is even MORE GLORIOUS. One event. Love and justice. Punishment and salvation. God’s JUSTICE demanded PUNISHMENT for our sin. God’s LOVE allowed his son to be killed for our SALVATION.

So what should our response be? Let’s FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF THE ISRAELITES. (At least here in Ch 14.) 1. Recognise we’re slaves who need rescue, and TRUST the God who SAVES us. 2. Then REMEMBER what he’s done and WORSHIP him.

First, we need to recognise we’re slaves who need rescue, and then TRUST God who rescues us. That’s what Israel did when they SHOWED THEIR TRUST IN ACTION. They obeyed God’s instructions. They covered their doors with the blood of a lamb. They got ready. Packed everything up. And WAITED. They relied on GOD to provide the rescue.

And we need to do the same. To recognise that we’re enslaved to Sin and death. And without Jesus, we don’t stand a chance. We need to trust his word. That he’s dealt with our sin. That he’s delivered us, and there’s nothing more to earn. And we need to RELY ON HIS RESCUE. And we need to pack up our old life, and step into the new life of serving King Jesus.

And then we need to WORSHIP him. Which is what chapter 15 is all about. Israel singing in relief and praise to the GLORIOUS God who saved them. We’re to DO THE SAME. Not just with SINGING. But with COMPLETE LIVES lived in gratitude and loyalty to God. (BODIES offered as LIVING sacrifices of spiritual worship).

And we’re also to follow the example of Israel in REMEMBERING what God’s done. A big slab of today’s passage is about what Israel is to do once they get out of Egypt. To make sure they REMEMBER. Ch 12 is about the Passover festival. Every year Israel is to celebrate it. Why? To remember what God has done for them. Look at Ch 12 v 14

 “This is a day you are to COMMEMORATE; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord–a lasting ordinance

So that was the Passover feast. Then there’s Ch 13. (We jumped over it before). It’s about the DEDICATION OF THE FIRSTBORN. The idea was/ every first-born male was to be dedicated to God. An animal was to be sacrificed in its place. Why? So that Israel would REMEMBER when God had killed EGYPT’S first-born sons. Look down to v14

14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. THIS IS WHY I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 AND IT WILL BE LIKE A SIGN ON YOUR HAND AND A SYMBOL ON YOUR FOREHEAD that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

Notice that the Passover, and the Dedication of the First-born, are both PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES. They’re not just WORDS. Something to do with the SENSES. We remember best when we do MORE than hear. But when we DO. When we see, and smell, and taste, and touch. They’re like a sign on our hand and a symbol on our forehead. To DO, and to THINK.

God gave these activities to Israel because they’re a great way to remember.

So that’s it. That’s our response to these chapters. Three things. RECOGNISE and TRUST. WORSHIP. REMEMBER

Which is just what we do in ANOTHER regular memorial. ANOTHER PHYSICAL memory aid. In fact Jesus gave it to his disciples to supersede the Passover. Luke 22. When he took the bread and the wine of the Passover, and connected them to his body, and his blood. And said to REMEMBER him.

We call it The Lord’s Supper. We use physical things to represent spiritual events. And what’s so good about physical things/ is that they help us to remember. We use bread and grape juice to remind us of Jesus’ body and blood. Food and drink give us PHYSICAL life. And in the same way Jesus’ body crucified, and Jesus’ spilt/ give us SPIRITUAL life. And as we chew on the bread and swallow the grape juice, we do exactly the same three things the Jews did.

1. We recognise our need for a Saviour. That we’re sinful people. Who can’t exist without JESUS/ anymore than someone can exist without FOOD. We TRUST him.

2. We worship the God who saves us. To eat and drink is to give God the glory he deserves. To eat and drink PROCLAIMS TO THE WORLD/ that true life and nourishment is only found in Jesus.

3. We remember what he’s done. The Passover Lamb sacrificed for us.

Recognise and trust. Worship. Remember.