Exodus 12:11 | Door to Mercy

One of the most fearful, memorable, and horrifying judgments on this present earth by God is found in the final plague against Egypt when Moses at the direction of God demanded that Egypt let the Hebrew people leave to worship God. The King of Egypt was stuck in this awful cycle of rebellion, stubbornness, and arrogance against God due to his own selfish and evil nature. In this final plague Pharaoh comes to the end of himself and he finds God’s crushing judgement on his entire worldview.

6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. Exodus 11:6 ESV  

God’s wrath is not looked upon kindly by modern man and many Christians willfully overlook God’s judgment to think and speak only on God’s love. But God’s love is not true unless God’s judgment is also sound. God’s judgment on Egypt is juxtaposed against his mercy for Israel here at this moment in history as recorded in Exodus 11 and 12.

God’s Judgement:

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. Exodus 12:12 ESV

In this final plague where the firstborn in every household dies in one terrifying night God communicates clearly that this death is a result of his judgement on Egypt. They are being judged as we all will be judged based on the life lived in service to self or stuff apart from God who created us. Egypt put their trust in false god’s that promote selfishness and hedonism. Egypt killed the first born of the Hebrew people out of selfish desire to remain in control. Egypt the same Egypt that is keeping as slaves the people of Israel deserved this judgment. It not my judgement or the judgment of the Hebrews or modern man’s judgment but it is the perfect righteous judgement of God who is the creator of all things.

God is also allowing this judgment on Egypt to be an example to the Hebrews and indeed the rest of history since we are still to this day discussing this terrible event and why it happened. God has chosen this moment with Egypt and Israel to reintroduce himself in a permanent way. God is taking control of the narrative and altering the course of human history. From this moment forward people will know God the one true God. No longer will people be ignorant of their Creator.

God’s Love:

11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Exodus 12:11 ESV

God’s love is found in His mercy. The Hebrews could have been left to the same fate as the Egyptians. But God provided an undeserved way of grace. If the people would follow his instructions and listen to His voice, they could find Passover from the judgment to come.

God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb for each household. The blood of this lamb placed on the doorframe of the house would allow the angel to Passover them in the moment of judgment. Yet there was more to God’s instructions that speaks to us today. There is a realization that this meal must be eaten in haste with nothing left for tomorrow because God is leading those that will submit to his word out of the world and they should be ready to go as one just passing through. Don’t put down the kind of roots that fools us into believing that this is our one best life. But stand with cloak on and staff in hand ready for the life with God that awaits. The Passover meal represents how they should live as one covered by the blood of the lamb.

My Response:

…For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed… 1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

All that happened as recorded in Exodus is but a sample of the perfect justice and perfect love that God is working out to a final conclusion. Judgement is coming on those who willfully live lives in service to their own selfish desires. Our sin will be judged by God just as Egypt was judged. All are guilty of sin before God. I am not here to judge others because I stand condemned as well. Yet because God is also perfect in His love, He provided a perfect Passover lamb in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blood of this lamb is available but it will only cover households that want to receive and trust God. The Hebrews received the instruction of Moses and were saved. The Egyptians rejected those instructions to trust in their own ways and were condemned by their own actions.

My response to God’s instruction is to yield to Jesus and partake in the grace and mercy God poured out in his Son. I am covered by the blood of the lamb and judgement will Passover me not because of my worth but because of my faith in God’s worth.

1 Corinthians 5:13 | Excommunication is that a Real Thing?

evil

Excommunication sounds painful and is always portrayed in a negative way. To be sure the very idea and the process could in no way be fun for anyone involved. In fact I imagine it would be recieved with tears and grief if practiced in real life.

“Excommunication is the exclusion of an irrevocably rebellious sinner from the communion of the faithful. Excommunication has been understood primarily as a medicinal measure, to recall to repentance and obedience. A secondary purpose is to safeguard the community’s purity. (Elwell, 422)”

Kicking someone out of the church based on this definition is done for two reasons. First as an act of discipline for an unrepentant member who is violating the standards of the church community. Second as an act of protection against an unrepentant member of the Church that could pull others away from the obedient life of service to God. So what is the real expectations and process of judging and condemning someone in such a way? Should it ever be done? How should the church approach the quickly shifting cultural standards of America and western society that require unending support for nontraditional lifestyles?

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians addressed just this issue in a Church that lived in a wealthy and sexually progressive society. Corinth being a hub for a major trade route would not have been an easy place to start one of the early Christian Churches.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 1 Corinthians 5:9 ESV

Such a request would be impossible when the society itself has sexually immoral people in every stratus. Much like contemporary life where marriage is becoming an exception and who one has sex with can float between same or opposite sex at a whim. Where living together is more common because society champions selfishness by postponing family and children to much later in life if at all. Sexually immoral lifestyles are not only accepted but expected. Such a request from Paul would create a church so inwardly turned and cut off from the world that it would be almost impossible to share the gospel. Thankfully Paul clears up any confusion in the following verse.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV

Anyone who bears the name of brother is the target of Paul’s call to not associate. When Paul says to not even eat with such a person he is in effect calling for excommunication of someone in the church. Before diving into that it would be appropriate to spend just a moment recognizing that this clarification also means that the Church must continue fellowship with the sinners who are not part of the church.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ESV

The church has a completely reasonable and appropriate authority to discipline those who submit to Christ’s authority but those outside the church are the concern of God himself. This is why the Church can be out in the community serving those who do not know Christ in love and acceptance without judgment or condemnation. If you as a Christian like the idea of standing on a street corner with a sign condemning in unflattering terms certain groups of people then Paul is in effect telling you to stop it. That is not your job. Your job is to build relationships and interact with that community to share the gospel.

Paul’s intent in this letter however is really focused on the discipline within the church and why the Corinthians were accepting of a man who was living openly with his Father’s mother. Paul in no uncertain term makes it clear that this man should be removed from the fellowship in the church. “Let him who has done this be removed from among you”, “Cleanse out the old leaven” and ”Purge the evil person”. While this sounds harsh this person was openly living a life contrary the standards expected of someone born again who should be living for Christ. This man was championing himself not Christ. While the church is full of sinners the church cannot be full of unrepentant sinners. I know my shortcomings and I would in no way want to champion and justify those inside the community of believers. The Christian life assumes a few things namely that all the selfish ambitions of this world and the self-gratifications that are outside of God’s perfect standards be laid down.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 ESV

There are two domains. The “World” where Satan and sin rule and the “Church” where Christ and obedience to his standards rule. Bringing the world into the church is not acceptable any more than Christians bringing light into the world is wanted or desired by those who are hiding from their Creator. While is seems harsh that Paul would want them to remove this person from fellowship in the church it was not done in anger or spite. His goal was in hope that such discipline would change the man’s heart (notice the woman is not spoken of in the same way because most likely she is not part of the church) and he might leave this godless lifestyle and return in repentance to Christ.

5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV

Paul by turning the man back out into the world where Satan has domain it hopeful that he will be saved because otherwise continuing in unrepentance the alternative is Hell. Is excommunication a real discipline that the church should be practicing? Yes but mostly this happens already in a kind of self-selection because an unrepentant individual is not going to be comfortable in the light that is natural within a church living through obedience to Christ. However there are times that someone who has intent to infiltrate and challenge the standards of God’s word from within the church must be removed publically in the manner that Paul asked of the Corinthians. The Church must be and remain a place of truth, trust, and togetherness in Christ Jesus.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV

 

John 8: I am not here to Judge

no condemnation

John 8 opens with the Pharisees bringing before Jesus a woman “caught” in adultery. The Pharisees came to trap Jesus trying to find some way to condemn him. They would bring him questions or situations that would force him to choose between the “law” and the government of Rome. Or the “law” and what the people wanted. The situations were no win in the area of politics. Whatever his answer the goal was to have some charge that could be used against Jesus either with the people who loved him or with Rome itself.

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” John 1:3-5 ESV

Jesus always responded with the truth from God which frustrated and angered the Pharisees because the political game was not part of his agenda. In this case they wanted Jesus to condemn this woman to death upholding the Jewish law but then in turn violating the Roman authority.

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. Leviticus 20:10 ESV

The Pharisees brought a show and Jesus did not respond. Obviously the Pharisees were violating their own laws. They said the woman had been caught in the act but where was the man that was with her? Famously Jesus does not respond to the challenge but writes on the ground. What Jesus wrote in the ground is unknown to us but the net effect is that no one could stand in judgement. Only Jesus has that right. So they walked away.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10 ESV

Neither do I condemn you. Jesus did not come to the world to judge it. Jesus came to save the world. Today right now is the time of grace where he wants everyone to repent of sin and find mercy and grace. Now is the season of mercy cling to it now before that season is ends.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17 ESV

In a second act of John 8 the Pharisees come back to Jesus listening to him speak in order to challenge what he says. Jesus claims to be the light of the world. “I am” he says and it drives these religious men crazy because by making that statement Jesus puts himself on equal footing with God.

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” John 8:12-13 ESV

It is interesting that this encounter is listed right after the encounter with the adulterous woman. Because these hateful men bring up the testimony of two for something to be accepted. It makes me wonder if what Jesus wrote or how Jesus found no one willing to condemn the adulterous woman had something to do with the number of people needed to witness the sin.

30 “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Numbers 35:30 ESV

Jesus challenges them on their own judgment. His judgment would be perfect and would fulfill the law. Jesus states that his judgment is true because there are two witnesses both him and the father.

15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” John 8:15-18 ESV

Jesus is the perfect witness because he and the Father testify to what they have seen in us. Our judgment should be condemnation but Jesus is not here at this time to judge. He is here to save and in him and his prefect record will find us innocent. What an act of grace and mercy. What other way would be more fitting for God to reconcile himself to sinners and rebellious children? Repent and accept his grace for now is the time.

Who is God to Judge?

21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. 23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. Exodus 12:21-23 NIV

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Exodus 12:29-30 ESV

God sent a destroyer to kill the first born in every house in the land of Egypt. Women, children, men, rich, and poor no one was exempt except for those that covered their homes with the blood of a lamb. Jews around the world still celebrate that event today as Passover.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:17-18 NIV

Jesus became the saving Passover lamb for us in eternity just like Moses demonstrated for a temporary moment. As it states in John 3:18 The Egyptians stood condemned already because they had rejected the one true God. The angel of death is coming for everyone because every person that has ever lived is condemned. Only the household that is covered in the blood of lamb will be spared with Jesus being the perfect Lamb for all that turn to him. Christians be they Hebrew or any nationality celebrate this event as Easter, the death burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and it occurs at the same time of the year as Passover. Passover was just a temporary event of judgment and salvation where Easter is the eternal event of judgment and salvation.

The Challenge that needs to be worked out is the idea that God has been unjust in killing the women and children of the Egyptians. To answer this charge one must understand our place in Creation. God is the Creator and I am created to be in relationship with Him. Yet I have rebelled against that relationship and I have tried to live life without God who created me. Because of that rejection God should have cast me away. Here is a verse from a song I like…

Tomorrow’s never promised, but it is we swear.
Think we holding our own, just a fist full of air.
God has never been obligated to give us life.
If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight.

God never promised long life or health and prosperity after the curse entered the world due to our sins. This world and our lives in it are temporary. In the book of Job God gives permission to Satan to kill the children of Job. God’s reason for this has nothing to do with Job and if he was faithful to God. God has his own reasons and his own plans. In the time of grief at having lost his family Job demands an audience with God feeling that he had been wronged. God appears to Job and his friends.

6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:7“Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 8 “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Job 40:6-7 NIV

Paul is just as clear about our right to challenge God’s justice and authority.

17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? Romans 9:17-21 NIV

It seems to me that Western ways of thinking, thinking that is based on the power of technology and the comfort of wealth, creates the illusion that we can view ourselves as God’s equal. Or that we can make God in the image of a man. God is not part of the Creation. We think to ourselves on all the things we will do and be. Yet in reality we have less control of events than we like to think. God placed us where we are born, in location and time. God has given us gifts of intelligence and strength.

Before concluding let me address specifically the charge of God’s judgment impacting the children of Egypt. God does not see life on Earth as the crowning achievement. Humankind forgets that this life is cursed and temporary. If God determines to bring children to their eternal home early that is His prerogative.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

Looking back to the Egyptians that God judged remember that God did not force the Egyptians to do anything they did not want to do. He allowed them to rebel and seek after god’s of their own making. That rebellion is our very nature. I do the same today and this is why God put on the limitations of man in the form of Jesus and died to restore the relationship. God’s perfect justice was satisfied in the punishment of Jesus and Jesus is the demonstration of God’s perfect love. God is always consistent and always perfect in all that He does. This short temporary life is your opportunity to embrace the mercy that He has provided and submit to Jesus as Lord for salvation.

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:17-19 NIV