Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fifth mid-week Lent sermon - Ex 11:1-10

                                                                                                Mid-Lent 5
                                                                                                Ex 11:1-10

            One more time.  In our text Yahweh says that he is going to bring a plague upon Egypt one more time.  There had been nine of them thus far. The Nile River was turned into blood.  There were frogs, and gnats and flies.  The livestock had died, and then men and animals had received boils. There was hail, and locusts and darkness over the land. God had sent nine plagues upon the land of Egypt.
            In each case the plague had not harmed the people of Israel.  Instead, the Egyptians had suffered.  But Pharaoh refused to allow the Israelites to leave.  Yahweh had said it would be this way.  When God called Moses at the burning bush he had said, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.”
            Pharaoh had his heart set on keeping Israel enslaved.  So God gave him over to his sinful desire.  Yahweh announced to Moses that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would resist God and refuse to allow the Israelites to leave no matter what happened.  He was doing this because Pharaoh was going to be the instrument by which Yahweh was glorified.  Before the seventh plague, God declared through Moses, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  The plagues were the means by which Yahweh showed his power and Pharaoh’s refusal to allow Israel to leave became the setting in which God did one awesome sign after another.
            The worst thing God can do is to give you over to yourself.  In his arrogance and wickedness, Pharaoh was determined to keep the Israelites as slaves. So God gave him over to his own sin.  He hardened Pharaoh’s heart to do the very sinful things that he wanted.
            We must see the danger in willfully hanging on to our own sin.  The persistent choice to sin can lead to the result that God gives us what we want – he gives a person over to his or her sin.  In particular the persistent rejection of the Means of Grace can lead to the time when God gives an individual over to the rejection of his gifts – the rejection of faith.
            Instead, not only do we need to struggle against sin, but we need to see the struggles in life as the means by which God draws us back to himself.  The old Adam wants to choose sin.  He wants to be his own god and to ignore the true God – the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, God is at work in the midst of hardships and difficulties to suppress the old Adam and turn us back to him. As a father disciplines a son, so our heavenly Father uses these things for our good.
            In the book of Exodus, the plagues must be understood as a contest between Yahweh and the gods of Egypt in which Yahweh shows that he is the true God.  This arrives at its culmination in the tenth plague as Yahweh targets Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh was considered by the Egyptians to be a god.  In the next chapter when Yahweh gives instructions for the Passover he says that in this tenth plague he is going to execute judgments on all the gods of Egypt. 
            When Yahweh first sent Moses to Pharaoh, Moses was told to announce: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, Let my son go that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” 
            Yahweh called Israel his son.  The nation had a unique status in his eyes because God had chosen them.  Indeed, God had created them in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  As Yahweh would remind Israel again and again, he hadn’t chosen them because they were the biggest or the best.  Instead, it was a matter of his grace – the unmerited love and favor of Yahweh.
            God had chosen Israel to be his own.  The nation was his adopted son and if Pharaoh didn’t let Israel go, Yahweh was going to act in judgment against him and Egypt.  However, Israel would be spared and in doing this God would show that he made a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
            In our text, Yahweh calls Israel his son.  Later when Israel was in the promised land he would say to King David,When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
            The Davidic king would be God’s son.  He would be the nation reduced to one.  He would represent God to the nation and the nation to God.  Jesus the Christ descended from David.  As the fulfillment of God’s promise to David, he is God’s son.  Yet he is not only God’s son in the adoptive sense of Israel and the Davidic king.  Instead, he is God’s Son from eternity – begotten of the Father before all worlds – God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.
            Like Israel, Jesus went into Egypt and lived there because of Herod the Great’s attempt to kill him.  Like Israel, Jesus came out of Egypt and into the promised land.  Indeed Matthew tells that this was to fulfill the prophet Hosea’s words, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  As Israel went through the water of the Red Sea, so Jesus entered the water of the Jordan in his baptism. As Israel passed from the water into the testing in the wilderness, so Jesus’ baptism led to his temptation in the wilderness.
            In the exodus, Israel gets off to a great start as Yahweh dramatically rescues his people and demonstrates the unique status they have in his eyes.  But the history of Israel is then one failure after another.  It is littered with examples of disobedience and rejection of God.  Your life is no different.
            And so in order to redeem you from this sin, God did something unthinkable.  For your sake treated his own Son, Jesus Christ, as he treated the false god Pharaoh.  Though Jesus was without sin, God poured out judgment upon him – the judgment your sin deserves. The sinless, obedient Son of God received God’s wrath in your place.  As we will see on Good Friday next week, God gave Jesus over to suffering and death in order to redeem you from sin.
            Yet that action was not the end.  Instead, through his Spirit – the same Spirit who had caused the Son of God to become incarnate in the flesh – God raised and transformed Jesus body.  God redeemed that body from death.  He conquered death through Jesus.
            Now, God has brought you through the water.  By your baptism God has joined you to Jesus’ saving death and resurrection.  You have been baptized into Christ.  St. Paul told the Galatians, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
            Through Jesus the Son, you have become sons and daughters of God.  Born again of water and the Spirit, the Spirit now leads you to call upon God in faith.  You live with the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life.  And you also bear the fruits of the Spirit as you love and serve others.
            During these Lent services we have followed the narrative in the book of Exodus.  We have arrived at the Passover. And so we are prepared to enter into Holy Week.  We will see that God’s judgment and rescue in the Passover was a type of what God has done for us in Christ.  It was an event in the Old Testament that pointed forward to a greater fulfillment – to what God has done for our salvation in the Lord Jesus, and the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper by which he gives us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.



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