I am speaking at the high school week of camp at Flaming Spirit Christian Service Camp starting tomorrow. I thought I might outline the messages that I plan on sharing.
The theme is “Sacrifice: Not Just a Word, but a Way of Life.”
If we look at the book of Exodus, we can see some foundational elements of sacrifice.
The people of God have been held in captivity. They have cried out to God for deliverance…and He has heard their cries. He summons Moses to be the man who leads God’s people out from under the yoke of Pharaoh. Moses approaches the King of Egypt and demands that he release God’s people. Pharaoh refuses. And God begins sending upon Egypt the famous 10 plagues.
The 10th plague, of course, was the death of the firstborn in all of Egypt. God had some words for His people through Moses.
Exodus 12:3-5 ESV
“3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats…”
The first element of sacrifice: choosing of a perfect sacrifice. God wants a lamb chosen who is perfect, without spot or blemish. Why? Because He wants what is best…not what is left over. He wants a sacrifice that will cost us something…otherwise, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. He wants the best. Anything less than the best is not a sacrifice.
Exodus 12:6 ESV
“6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.”
The second element of sacrifice: the sacrifice is slaughtered. A sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice until it is sacrificed! The lamb was just a pet until it is slaughtered. The same is true for our own lives. There is a lot we can offer to God from our lives, but those things don’t actually become a sacrifice until they are offered. For example, if I set aside time to be spent with God, yet don’t actually spend it with Him, I am not making a sacrifice. I can go and “play church” and even call myself a Christian who has given his life to God. However, it is still possible for me to not have actually sacrificed my life for Him. A sacrifice must be sacrificed…or it isn’t a real sacrifice.
Notice that God wanted the lamb to be with the family for 4 days before it was sacrificed. Why is that? I think maybe God wanted His people to grow attached to the lamb before they sacrificed it. Why? Because sometimes we have to sacrifice the things we have grown attached to…the things we love. What do you love? Would you sacrifice it as an offering to God?
Exodus 12:7, 13 ESV
7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it…13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
The third element of sacrifice: the blood of the sacrifice must be applied. The blood of the lamb became a sign for God. The sign stated that the appropriate sacrifice had indeed been made. It’s blood had been shed and then “put on.” When God would bring about the plague, the blood would secure the life of the firstborn found in the house. The blood secured life, ironically. Without the blood applied, the result would be death. And we will see this true in Jesus.
Exodus 12:8-11 ESV
“8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord‘s Passover.”
The fourth element of sacrifice: the people prepared themselves and the sacrifice was eaten. The sacrifice became a meal with sides of unleavened bread and bitter herbs. There is much we can talk about here…and we will draw parallels later with Jesus and communion, but focus on the preparation for the meal. The people were to eat with their belts fastened, their sandals on, and their staffs in their hands. They had to be ready to go. He calls us to action.
Exodus 12:12 ESV
“12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.”
The fifth element of sacrifice: the execution of God’s judgment. Egypt had tons of gods. In fact, each one of the 10 plagues was a direct smack to one of their gods. For example, they worshiped the god of Hapi, the Nile River god. You’ll recall, the first plague turned the Nile into blood. The God of Israel triumphs over Hapi. The second plague, the frogs, was also a direct attack. The Egyptians worshiped Heqt, a frog-like god who assisted women in childbirth and symbolized new life. But if you read the passage, all these frogs took over Egypt and then all died and were stacked into heaps of stinky, decomposing frogs. Some new life. And all the plagues were like this. Thus, God says, “on all the gods of Egypt I will execute my judgments.” This 10th plague, the death of the firstborn, was the harshest. The Egyptians regarded Pharaoh as the greatest god. And for his firstborn to die was to break the divine succession of the throne.
Who is qualified to execute judgment. Only a perfect Being. All else have failed and thus cannot judge without being hypocritical. God shows He is greater than all other gods and that He alone is worthy to execute judgments: “I am the Lord,” He reminds us. God’s judgment is death for anyone who does not have the blood of a perfect sacrifice over them. However…
Exodus 12:13 ESV
“13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
The sixth element of sacrifice: the saving of those under the blood. As stated earlier, the blood was the sign; the only way. The firstborn of each family under the blood of the lamb would be saved.
So what happens?
Exodus 12:29-32 ESV
“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. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
The people of God were saved…and not just saved, but freed to live a different, better life. The sacrifice (death) brought life. ANd we can see how that came to be by looking at the elements of the sacrifice built upon each other: a perfect sacrifice is chosen, slaughtered, and then its blood applied. The people prepare and eat the sacrifice. God’s judgment is executed, but those under the banner of the blood are saved from that judgment. And ultimately, it lead to life.