Salvation is what we celebrate when we take the bread and the cup. Salvation is another word for deliverance--deliverance from a false god, deliverance from Satan the god of this age, deliverance from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. We who come to the foot of the cross to thank God for what Christ has done are celebrating the fact that we have been delivered, we are no longer under the dominion of Satan, no longer under the dominion of demons, no longer under the dominion of sin, but we are under the dominion of God through Christ.
The greatest illustration of God's delivering power in the Old Testament is found in the book of Exodus. And I would like you to go there with me, the book of Exodus.
There's no question that the Jews believed that God was a delivering God. In Exodus 15:2 it says, "The Lord is my strength and song, He has become my salvation." That in the Song of Moses was looking back at the very events that I'm going to show you in the Scripture. God was a delivering God. God was a saving God. And God had never made it more clear than He made it when He delivered the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. Back in chapter 5 Moses and Aaron in verses 1 and 2 came to Pharaoh and they said, "Thus says the Lord the God of Israel, Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness."
The point is this, Egypt was filled with false deities. There was a plethora of gods almost uncountable. The children of Israel had been made subject to a culture and a society in which the worship of these false gods was absolutely dominant and God was saying...I want you out from under that influence of all the false deities and I want you to worship Me.
But Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and besides, I'll not let Israel go." He thought he knew a lot of deities but the Lord wasn't one of them. He said, "Who is He that I should obey His voice? Who is He that He should tell me what to do?"
And so, Pharaoh said no. And so now you had a massive conflict about to take place between Jehovah God and the gods of Egypt and God is about to put on an awesome display in which He will deliver His people. And He tells Moses something of what He is going to do. Chapter 6 verse 1, He says to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh." Not only will he let them go, he'll drive them out by the time I get down with him. "I am the Lord, I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I did not make Myself known to them."
In other words, they have known Me as God but they haven't seen the display of My sovereign power and My redeeming power to the degree they're going to see it now. Lord is the saving name, Yahweh. They're about to see My redemptive power. They're about to see Me destroy the gods of Egypt.
Egypt, by the way, was a formidable nation at that time. Fragments of splendorous temples still stand today as testimony to the greatness, the glory, the splendor of Egypt. The multitude of shrines and inscriptions and religious artifacts are a reminder that frankly nothing in Egypt was secular. Everything was associated with the worship of some deity or another.
So, it was God against the gods of Egypt. They were literally idolatrous in every element of life. They had myriads of gods. One ancient writer wrote, "There will come a time when it will be seen that in vain have the Egyptians honored the deity with heartfelt piety and assiduous service and all our holy worship will be found bootless and ineffectual. O Egypt, Egypt, of thy religion nothing will remain but an empty tale which thine own children in time to come will not believe, nothing will be left but graven words and only the stones will tell of thy piety." He was right. The bankruptcy of their religion, the impotency of their demon gods became manifest.
In chapter 7, then, God moves to bring His power down. And you have the very familiar series of plagues in which God does this. In chapter 7 verses 14 to 21 is the first plague, and we're only going to sort of lightly touch on these. Chapter 7 verse 14 says that Pharaoh's heart was stubborn and he wouldn't let the people go. "Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he's going out to the water and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent. And you'll say to him, The Lord, the God of the Hebrews sent me to you saying, Let My people go that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now. Thus says the Lord, By this you shall know that I am the Lord. Behold, I'll strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, it will turn to blood; and the fish that are in the Nile will die and the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile. Then the Lord said to Moses, Take your staff, stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, over their pools, over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone," even when they've taken it into the houses.
"So Moses and Aaron did even as the Lord had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of the servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood. And the fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile and the blood was through all the land of Egypt."
Now from earliest times to the present day the heartbeat of Egypt has been the flow of the river Nile. Hardly any country in ancient times was as dependent on this waterway. It was strategic to agriculture, its annual rise and flood provided new deposits of fertile soil as well as water for all the surrounding fields. In its lowest point in May it began to rise in June, main flood waters came in July and August. Were it not for this inundation, Egypt would be as desolate as the rest of the desert around it.
The Egyptians recognized this and wrote hymns to the Nile. All kinds of gods were associated with the very god of the river, gods of fertility, gods of blessing, gods of happiness. So God took on Egypt at its very heart. Pharaoh, going down to the river for some religious idolatrous sacred rite, Moses meets him there and confronts him and tells him basically what's going to happen.
Remember now, the Nile was sacred. Many gods were associated with it. The great god Khnum was the guardian of the source of the Nile. Hapi was the spirit of the Nile or its dynamic essence. One of the greatest Egyptian gods was Osiris who was god of the underworld and Egyptians believed the Nile was the bloodstream of Osiris. How appropriate the Lord should turn it to blood as it he had been slaughtered. Fish died. The river stank, became useless. Significant because in the hymn to the Nile which the Egyptians sang they said, "The bringer of food rich in provisions, creator of all good, lord of majesty, sweet of fragrance." You can imagine the horror as not only their river but their gods were being destroyed. Crocodiles were forced, of course, to leave the river. Hapi was manifest as a crocodile god so the people saw that Hapi had been defeated by the God of the Israelites. Crocodiles, by the way, were even mummified as sacred. So this had tremendous religious implications.
Meith(?) the eloquent warlike goddess took special care of the latese(?), the Nile's largest fish, and here her power had been broken as the fish died. Hathor protected the smaller fish, they died showing God's power over that deity. The whole thing revealed the impotence of their gods and the power of the true God. Magicians of Egypt tried to counterfeit this but God was more powerful than they.
Chapter 8, we find the second of the plagues. "The Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and say, Let My people go. If you refuse to let them go, I'll smite your whole territory with frogs." Now it's not unusual to have frogs. Frogs are common in marshlands. They're are many artifacts that you can see when you go to Egypt even today, as I have done, and they will be in the form of frogs. Frogs represented the faithfulness of the gods, blessing, the assurance of harvest because they meant the soil was still wet and the frogs could survive. The receding water when the river went back to its banks left pools all over and in those pools frogs were bred. They could be heard all over the area in the evenings, sweet music to the farmers because they indicated that the Nile had made the land fertile again. They deified the frog and made a theophany of the goddess Hect(?) or frog. She was the wife of Khnum and it was a symbol of fertility and resurrection. Hect was one of the eight what they call primeval gods, four male frog-headed gods and four serpent-headed goddesses who personified the water. Frog then was a sacred animal, could not be intentionally killed and even their involuntary slaughter, get this, was punished with death.
So the presence of frogs was normally acceptable, pleasant and even religious. But this isn't normal. Verse 3, "The Nile will swarm with frogs which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and on to the people and into your ovens and into kneading bowls." Frog stew, frog bread, frog everything. "Frogs are going to come up on you and all your people and all your servants." This is supernatural frogging, like a blanket of filth, the slimy monstrosities covered the land until men sickened at the continued squashing crunch of the ghastly pavement they were forced to walk on. If a man's foot slipped on the greasy mass of their crushed bodies, he fell into an indescribably offense mass of putrid uncleanness. And when he sought water to cleanse himself, the water was so solid with frogs he couldn't get clean.
One writer said, "Small green peepers, no larger than locusts, distended toads, the color of excrement modeled frogs like bloated vegetation. Frogs that were humps of bronze, frogs with eyes of unblinking demons, frogs subtler than salamanders, frogs motionless, frogs that leaped into the laps of screaming children, wart-breeding frogs, frogs like droppings of mud, frogs trailing their slime after them, flying frogs that built nests in high reeds, frogs that died and breed death." Once again the sacred Nile was the source of pollution...a little old fashioned but you get the picture. Frogs everywhere. And this was a blow to the frog-goddess who had been overpowered, run amuck.
Then in chapter 8 verse 16, the third plague, gnats. "The Lord said to Moses, Say to Aaron, Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth that it may become gnats." That's absolutely astounding. Literally this is mosquitoes. They're made out of the dust, for every particle of dust all of a sudden you get a mosquito. "Aaron stretched out his hand, struck the dust of the earth and there were gnats, or mosquitoes, on man and beast," lice some translations indicate. Whatever they were they were some kind of irritating tiny little bug. All the dust of the earth became gnats. That's a lot of gnats. Gnats everywhere. We're not sure exactly what this attacked but there were gods of the soil, there were gods of the earth and there were priests who bathed all day and shaved their bodies to stay pure and now they were all polluted with these gnats that were everywhere. The power of God was again victorious over the gods of Egypt.
Then in chapter 8 verse 20 you see the fourth plague, flies. Let's go at it again, God says, he hasn't gotten the message. "Rise early in the morning, present yourself before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water and say to him, Thus says the Lord, let My people go that they may serve Me. If you will not let My people go, I'll send swarms of insects on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of insects and also the ground on which they dwell." I'm going to just fill this place with insects...blood-sucking, what are called gadflies, or dog flies. They were hated, they were responsible for a great deal of blindness in the land of Egypt. They were manifestations, the Egyptians thought, of the god Uatchit...U a t c h i t. This god somehow was represented in these flies. They were offensive. They were burdensome. In massive numbers the intensity of them could cause all kinds of illness, disease, blindness and etc. And whatever god was associated with them was shown to be weak.
Then in chapter 9 you have the death of animals. Again the confrontation, "The Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and tell him, Either let My people go or I'm going to come at you for a fifth time. I'm going to bring...verse 3...a severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on horses, donkeys, camels, herds, flocks." Now this is going to devastate their whole livelihood. "And the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel."
They made the demand and Pharaoh would not let the people go. Like in India, cattle were sacred, even horses were sacred. There was the worship of Apis. If you go to the land of Egypt, and I have done that, and you go down into some of the sacred tombs, you will if you have the time find some of the sacred tombs of the bulls. They were sacred to the god called Ptah. One huge temple has 64 large burial chambers. In each is a huge sarcophagus, 12x9x6, weighing 60 tons. In each of those a sacred bull was buried. Hathor the goddess of love and beauty was represented as a cow. Mnevis...I don't know why...Mnevis, another god, was a sacred bull. So again it was an all-out war on the idolatry of Egypt.
Then in chapter 9 verse 8, the sixth plague. It tells us in verse 8, the Lord said the same thing, "Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh," confront him again. "It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt and it will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt. They took soot from a kiln, stood before Pharaoh, threw it in the sky, became boils breaking out with sores." Here are these terrible boils, it comes out of the dust, out of the soot, turns into dust, turns into boils. Sekhmet, a lion-headed goddess was supposed to have power to control and end all epidemics, power to control and end all plagues. She even had a special priesthood called Sunu(?) and they wore amulets representing her and they were the ones who were supposedly able to go around and ward off disease. And here comes a plague, a physical disease that is out of control and it's unable to be handled by the gods of Egypt. Serapis(?) was the god of healing, helpless. Amun-Hotep, the god of medicine, helpless. God was unstoppable as He liberated His people.
The seventh plague comes in chapter 9 verse 13 and this is hail and fire. Chapter 9 verses 13 through the end of the chapter, we won't take time to read it. Suffice it to say that God sends down hail and fire in a frightening judgment. This strikes a blow at Newt who was the sky goddess, Isis and Seth who had responsibility for all the crops and in this terrible tragedy hail and fire destroyed all the crops so those gods were shown to be weak.
The eighth plague comes in chapter 10. Locusts, same kind of confrontation, the same kind of warning and then comes the terrible plague as the locusts cover the land. Verse 12, "Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts that they may come up on the land of Egypt and eat every plant of the land, even all the hail has left." Whatever is left, the locusts eat. You're talking about horrifying condition, a famine. None of the gods of Egypt can stop this.
A locust is a machine that eats. A locust is capable of eating its own weight daily. One square mile of locusts will contain from 100 million to 200 million locusts and swarms have been known to cover 400 square miles. They're able to flap their wings non-stop for 17 hours, fly at a cruising speed of ten to twelve miles per hour for 20 hours or more. And they were everywhere in the land, moving across in devastating destruction. There were no gods of the crops that could stop them.
"Then came darkness, verse 21 of chapter 10, darkness. One of the premiere deities in Egypt was the god Ra, do you remember that name? He was the sun god. He was the god they worshiped because he faithfully provided the warmth and the light of the sun day after day. And now all of a sudden he is encountered and he is defeated. Amon-Ra, the chief god of Thebes was the sun god. Atum was the god of the setting sun. And so these deities were shown to be weak before the God of Israel.
And then finally in chapter 11 verses 1 to 10, the death of the firstborn. This is the finale, the death of the firstborn. This hits at the god Min(?) who was the god of procreation. This hits at Isis, the symbol of fertility and the power to produce offspring. This hits at Hathor(?) who, for example, was one of seven deities who attended the birth of children, this massive slaughter of all the firstborn. Down in verse 5 it describes all the firstborn dying. In verse 6 the cry that goes up throughout the land at this unbelievable devastation.
Well, this horrible experience brought Israel to deliverance and got them out of Egypt. This was a mighty display of God's power. It ended up in their deliverance.
To commemorate it God instituted a feast...a feast. Chapter 12 describes it, it's called Passover. And God said I want you to do it in the beginning of months for you, verse 2, first month of the year on the tenth of the month, take a lamb...and He went on to describe the Passover, the killing of the spotless lamb.
Why did the Jews do that for centuries? To remember God was a God of deliverance. To remember that God was a God of salvation, that no matter how formidable the enemy might be, no matter how powerful the deities might be, He could defeat them all and deliver His people.
The night before His death Jesus gathered with His disciples and He gathered to eat the Passover to remember that great deliverance from Egypt, to remember the power of God to deliver His people out of the hand of all other gods. But Jesus took the bread that would have been a reminder of the Passover, the cup that would have been a reminder of the Passover and instituted a new feast. He said...From now on for the rest of the history of the world whenever you want to remember the delivering saving power of God you don't go back to Egypt, you go back to the cross. He wonderfully took the Passover and transformed it into His table. He was about to make the display of power in Egypt look like a small operation, very localized, very limited and with only a brief moment of historical significance when compared with what He accomplished on the cross.
No longer would people look back to the Passover in Egypt and the deliverance of God as He killed all the firstborn in Egypt and spared the children of Israel who put the blood on the doorpost and the lintel, no longer would that be the redemptive display of all displays. Now the redemptive display would be the cross. We don't celebrate the Passover, we celebrate the new Passover, the Lord's table.
In some way we are doing what the Jews did at the Passover. We are remembering the delivering power of God. This is our remembrance, this display infinitely greater than any other display. Paul writes, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks He broke it and said, `This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way He took the cup...that's the Passover cup...also after supper saying, `This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, do this as oft as you drink it in remembrance of Me, for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord."
And thus does Paul tell us the Lord instituted the new Passover. The Jews celebrated the Passover every year. We celebrate the Lord's table much more frequently than that, don't we? It can be celebrated anytime...anytime God's people come together it can be celebrated. The early church was doing it daily and then weekly, and now we do it several times a month perhaps. It can be done anytime by God's people. It's without a date, not like the Passover, it can be done anytime as we remember the greatness of our salvation. Let's bow together in prayer.
Father, as we come to this table we look back to the cross and the monumental deliverance that Jesus Christ effected there, far greater than anything that was done through Moses and Aaron, far greater than any deliverance effected by a lamb whose blood was put upon the doorpost and the lintel is the redemption, the salvation and the deliverance accomplished through Jesus Christ who shattered the power of every false deity and shattered the power of the god of this age, even Satan himself who shattered it and devastated it, who took that false god and bruised his head permanently. We thank You that He could say "It is finished" and know He triumphed in His cross and that all principalities and powers were made subject to Him in it, that He by His own death transported His people from bondage to freedom, from death to life, from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness, from hell to heaven, from chains to freedom. Not any of us were there to see His saving power in Egypt, but all who come to Christ can experience the saving power of His cross.
And so, Lord, we come tonight to take the cup and the bread in order that we might remember and acknowledge and celebrate Your saving power. We know, Lord, that some here are not Christians and they cannot partake for to do so would be bringing judgment on themselves. Some who are Christians here, Lord, are harboring sin in their life, living sinfully without repentance, they are not worthy to partake for they would mock the cross by holding to the very sin which You died to remove.
So, Father, we pray that You might save those who do not know You, that You might redeem them even now, that You might forgive their sins and cleanse them and become Lord and Savior to them that they might partake. May they now open their hearts to You and pray a prayer of repentance and embrace Christ. And for those who are Christians holding on to sin, may this be a time of confession, and for all of us, time when we come clean and ask the Spirit to search out the dark spots that we don't even know about and make us worthy to share in these elements. Work that work in our hearts. We pray in Christ's name.