Main Point – It is a great necessity and joy to remember the sacrifice that was made for our freedom.
1. Review of chapter 12 and July 16th sermon
Last week we looked at Exodus Chapter twelve’s accounting of the Passover and the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt.
We determined that God was creating a living breathing illustration of the Gospel for His people and that He was showing them that man is in bondage to sin and that to be brought out from it requires great sacrifice.
We learned of the death of the firstborn that came upon the whole land of Egypt except the homes where a lamb was slaughtered and its blood placed upon the doorposts of the home.
And we agreed that the Jesus of the New Testament was the fulfillment of this Passover sacrifice and that the sacrifice of the Son of God was much costlier than 250,000 lambs per year could ever be.
2. The necessity and joy of remembering
The main question we’ll be asking and answering today is: What is the significance of the consecration of the firstborn in Exodus Chapter 13?
Have you ever gotten goosebumps from the national anthem being sung with pictures of fallen war heroes on the screen?
Have you ever teared up or welled up with emotion when you’ve seen a fallen military member’s spouse or child presented with the flag that covered their loved one’s casket?
What is that? What deep heart strings do these situations pluck?
If you’ve ever been to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC you know what I’m talking about. To stand in silence in front of a wall of over 58,000 names of soldiers who gave their life to protect your freedom is a humbling and sobering thing.
Remembering sacrifice that brought you freedom is a very special thing. The reason I think it’s so special is because God thought of it first. He planned to have a special kind of remembering be a part of an eternal worship service for His Son Jesus.
I believe that emotional responses that we have towards human sacrifice for freedom, now, are rooted in a deeper spiritual hardwiring that was put in us with the purpose of praising the great Lamb of God’s sacrifice, forever.
Let’s take a look at where the remembering of sacrifice all started in earnest for God’s people in Exodus Chapter 13. We’ll look at how it progressed later in the Old Testament and then finally where it all ended up in the New Testament in the person of Jesus both on earth and in heaven and what that means for us today.
As you listen to this section being read again, listen for the phrases or themes that are repeated.
(Read Exodus 13:1-16 again)
Notice there are three phrases or themes repeated in this section:
- The theme of the consecration of the firstborn to the Lord in vs 1 & 12
- The phrase, “This will be a sign for you, like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead,” in vs 9 & 16
- The phrase, “The Lord brought you out with a mighty hand,” in vs 3, 9 & 16
In Hebrew writings it’s important to pay attention to the things that are repeated. They will often show you the main points of emphasis that were intended to land upon the listener of what was being read, much like the chorus of a song that keeps coming around again after each verse.
So in Chapter 12 God instructed the Israelites to perform the Passover celebration every year, so they would always remember the sacrifice that was made to free them from their bondage in Egypt. It created a yearly date or structure for this remembering. Along with that He also instituted the week long feast of unleavened bread to coincide with Passover and added another layer of remembering structure.
Now in Chapter 13 God is adding yet another instruction and another layer of structure to help the people remember. They were to consecrate, or dedicate, all firstborn male children and animals for the Lord’s purposes.
So why did God ask His people to institute these things? From this passage, how do we get to the statement,
Main Point – It is a great necessity and joy to remember the sacrifice that was made for our freedom.
God knew a couple of things that His people, at that time, did not:
1. He knew they were forgetful and fickle.
God knew that it wouldn’t be long before His people would be begging Moses to go back to Egypt. They would need to be reminded of what their freedom cost in order to keep pressing on.
Every time a firstborn male child or animal would be born there would be an intentional act of dedicating to the Lord in thanksgiving for the deliverance from Egypt and bondage. Passover only came around once a year. Births were happening all of the time and would provide ample opportunities for community wide remembering.
He also knew that there would be stretches of time, sometimes hundreds of years, that His people would neglect His Word and the feasts and festivals. They would need to be reminded again, through the reading of the Word, of their history and God’s faithfulness and power to rescue them and preserve them as a people.
Because God gave these ordinances to Moses to be written down, they were made part of the “official record” if you will. Oral traditions that get passed down from one generation to the next can easily be lost and have been easily lost throughout the ages. This written Word of God delivered by Moses in Exodus 13 was a great gift to God’s people. For the first time they had a structure to hold on to and one that could be read and re-read, then practiced and remembered forever.
2. He knew their greatest deliverance was still yet to come.
We know, from the rest of scripture, that God knew that the Savior of mankind would be born from a Jewish family, from the tribe of Judah. He knew there would be a flesh and blood, ethnic and personal connection between these Israelites leaving Egypt and Jesus who would be born in a manger in Bethlehem.
I believe we can infer from this, that He wanted His people to be personally invested in and continually aware that the sacrifice required for redemption was still needed and that it would be very personal. Personal meaning that Jesus, the ultimate atoning sacrifice, would be God and man at the same time and that his “manness” would come from ethnic Israel.
We also know, from the rest of scripture, that:
- God also knew that He intended on giving Moses the Ten Commandments and all of the Law, which included the institution of the Tabernacle and future Temple where sacrifices would continually be brought for the sins of the people. (Exodus 19 & 20)
- God also knew that He intended on substituting the men of the tribe of Levi for all the firstborn son’s of Israel for the dedicated work in the Tabernacle and then Temple. (Numbers 1 & 3)
- God also knew that He intended on substituting His own Son Jesus for the Levitical priesthood, to fulfill the duties of offering the sacrifices required once and for all. Jesus is spoken of as High Priest many times in the book of Hebrews. For example:
- Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
But it all started with God’s instruction to consecrate the firstborn of every womb.
It was an amazing teaching tool. It was the beginning of a beautiful progression that lasted close to 1,500 years and culminated at the cross.
The good news for us today is that it didn’t end there!
3. God knew that this remembering would last forever.
i. New Testament Communion
As Jesus gathered with His disciples, in the upper room to celebrate the Passover feast the night before His crucifiction, He said this, in Matthew 26:26-29:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Paul later affirms this teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and gives further instruction for the early church that was partaking in this meal regularly as they gathered together, but wrongly. Apparently some in the church at Corinth were eating the bread and drinking the wine of communion in haste and out of hunger and thirst or desire to get drunk, not taking time to contemplate what the symbols represented or searching their own hearts for sin to confess.
It’s clear, both from Jesus and Paul’s teaching, that a new structure for remembering was put in place for God’s people. Since the true Lamb of God fulfilled all that the Passover, Levitical priesthood and all the sacrifices at the Temple stood for, a new and better way was made for remembering. No more blood would need to be spilled.
New Covenant remembering would be less bloody and burdensome. God’s people could begin to experience the benefits of the ransom being paid in full.
And so, from the time of Jesus until now, we believers regularly take bread and grape wine or juice and remember Christ’s sacrifice that paid our ransom and we call it communion.
ii. Heavenly worship
But that’s not the end either! There was more joy intended for this remembering that God was calling His people to do. A forever remembering in the form of heavenly worship for all of eternity.
Listen to the Apostle John’s vision of heaven in Revelation Chapter five. (Read all of Revelation 5)
Grace church, what’s the significance of the consecration of the firstborn in Exodus Chapter 13?
Why would we care or even need to know about an ancient Jewish custom like this?
Because it’s a part of of a glorious and masterfully woven fabric of redemption, wrought out in and through a chosen people, of which we now have a part, by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus. It’s our story now too! And the celebratory remembering of the Lamb of God will be without end. Soaking in the rich history of God’s redemptive story will give us fuel for more hearty worship both now and forever.
So what does this mean for us here and now? How do we apply this knowledge and allow it to shape our lives to prepare us for the heavenly worship service of remembering?
- Attend weekly corporate church services and prioritize them above all else, whenever possible. Do not neglect to gather with the saints to remember Christ’s sacrifice. If it’s good enough for daily activity in heaven, it’s good enough to at least bring us together once a week for corporate worship. We are still human after all, much like the Israelites that God provided so many structures and reminders for. We are fickle and prone to forgetting who we are in Christ and all that He’s accomplished on our behalf. Attend Sunday services regularly, not to earn points with others or with God, but to be armed with the truth and be refreshed and revitalized in your identity in Christ.
- I think we as a church need to begin considering more frequently observing communion. We, as elders, have talked about this often over the years, but I think it’s something that we need to continue looking at. Jesus and Paul opened the door for more frequent use of this ceremony and provided freedom for it to be more than a once a year Passover celebration. As New Covenant believers, I believe that we have a new freedom to celebrate communion as often as we gather corporately. Let’s press into what this might mean for us as a church.
- Consider teaching the Old Testament stories to yourself and your kids; the stories of the Passover, the consecration of the first born, the Levites and the sacrificial system of the tabernacle and temple. Go back and read them for yourself from the scriptures and pick out sections that you can read to your kids. Devote some time to reading the Old Testament, if you aren’t already. As you do, you’ll add more solid fuel to the fire of your worship by knowing all of redemptive history.