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As we begin this New Year I am reminded of a passage I read a few weeks ago in the Book of Exodus. As the Lord gave instructions to Moses and Aaron for the institution of the observance of the first Passover He said to them:
This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.
In preparing His people for deliverance, both from bondage in Egypt and from the Angel of Death, He tells them that this coming event is significant enough that it should be used as a milestone to mark the beginning of each new year. This passing over of the houses marked with the blood from the lamb that had been sacrificed was so precious an event that it was used to mark time and is proclaimed by God to be given as an "everlasting ordinance" to His people. We now remember and participate in this ordinance each time that we observe the Lord's Supper, or Communion.
In Exodus we see that Israel was in bondage to Egypt just as we are all born slaves of sin (Rom 3:23; 6:16). Israel was crying out for deliverance (Exodus 3:7) and God was the One Who set in motion the plan to rescue them (Exodus 3:8), just as He set into motion the plan to redeem us from our sin (John 3:16; Eph 1:3-6). And just as He took His people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, so too, we look for heaven, to the return of our King, and to life in His presence forever (Heb 11:9-10).
For today then, as this is our beginning of months, let us think about the things that were necessary for the deliverance of God's people. This gives us cause to remember and to rejoice in the salvation of our God.
First we see that there had to be bondage. The people needed to be delivered. Without bondage, without being enslaved, and without being incapable of rescuing themselves the people had no need of a Savior. How often do we forget that we need to be saved and that we need to be delivered from sin and death and that there is nothing that we can do about it on our own? Since the fall, the race of Adam has been bound in sin and in need of salvation.
Secondly we see that there had to be death. There was the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians that motivated Pharaoh to finally let the people go and there was the death of the Passover Lamb, sacrificed so that the blood could be spread on the doorposts of the homes where the Angel of Death would pass over.
Death is just a fact of life! As we close out one year and ring in the new we remember those who died during the last 12 months, but even then we try to hide from it, ignore it, or pretend we will never die. We really do try not to think about death. But each of us will die physically unless Jesus returns first. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and we are all sinners. We live in a fallen world, afflicted with sickness, sorrow, and suffering. And sin is the only explanation that can be offered when we are asked why bad things happen, even to "good" people.
Is this a reason to give up hope or to despair? Of course not. For those who have been delivered they have been passed over - physical death though inevitable will not hurt them! It is merely a step from this life into the presence of the One Who gave Himself to save us.
For those who have not been delivered from the power of sin through repentance and faith in Christ, death is a sudden step into eternity to face their Judge, and with all the talk these days about contextualizing the gospel and being relevant, perhaps we would be better off if we just realized that people are dying without Jesus and they need to hear the gospel!! We need not contextualize it or make it relevant. All people are sinners. All people die. Only Jesus can deliver them from sin and death. You can't get more relevant than that!
We must notice from the passage in Exodus that it was not only the firstborn of the Egyptians who died that night. The lamb died too. The lamb was sacrificed, and that gives us cause to rejoice because Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He died in our place, substituting Himself for us so that we need not fear death.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing! And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: " Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
The third thing that we see that had to be necessary for the Passover was an obedient people. Moses and Aaron had to tell the people what God expected and the people had to hear and do what they were told. It was only through carefully following the things that Moses said that the people were spared death and freed from their bondage. There was only one way to get out of Egypt. There was only one route to freedom, and the instructions were specific.
Today we need to be reminded that there is only One Way to be delivered and that Way is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). His gospel is specific, it is a command, and we must hear it and obey it if we are to be freed from this slavery to unrighteousness.
Beyond hearing the gospel for the first time we also need to continue to hear His voice as He leads us through His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. We hear Him through reading, through listening to faithful preachers and teachers, through fellowship, though the songs of praise we sing, and through other means as we are exposed to the Word of God. As we hear the Word and obey the Word we prove that we love God (1 John 5:3), we are sanctified (John 17:17), we are transformed (Rom 12:1-2), and we are equipped to fight the good fight and overcome sin and temptation (Psalm 119:11).
There are plenty of false teachers out there. There are more than enough who try to entertain people and preach that it is all about us, all about being happy, having our best life, being healthy, wealthy, and wise. But this man-centered gospel never saved anyone - it only condemned those who hear it because it is not the truth. The truth is that it is not about us - it is about a Holy God. It is about hearing Him and obeying Him, not for what we can get from Him but because He alone deserves our worship, adoration, and obedience.
In this, our beginning of months, let us remember the things that God tells us are important - things important enough to rewrite the calendar. Let us be determined not to mark the time of our lives by the simply worldly things that pass us by, but by the worship of our God who has passed us over because of His Son, freeing us from sin and death so that we might proclaim His holiness, His love, and His goodness.
In this New Year, it is not about us, it is about Him! That is the only place to begin.