I had touched very briefly yesterday on the plague of the firstborn and the passover ceremony which spared the lives of those who followed God. Let’s look at that a bit more today.
To prepare the Israelites for the passover they were to have each family take a lamb and slaughter it at twilight and take some of the blood and put it on the doorframes of their houses and then cook and eat the lamb that night with bitter herbs. They were to also take care of the lamp for a week before they slaughtered it. This would not be an easy thing to do and the meal would not taste good. This was meant to show the pain and sorrow that sin causes and the blood that is required to wash away sin.
Slaughtering the lamb in Egypt would also have taken a lot of faith. Animals were of great value back then, which is why so many of the Egyptians worshiped them, and most likely many of the Israelites did as well. Animals were of even greater value as well because of all the plagues that had just wiped out the animals in Egypt. Earlier we had seen that they could not do any sacrifices in the land of Egypt because the Egyptians detested it. Now they are doing just that. In order to do this the Israelites are sacrificing their material wealth, as well as turning their backs on the Egyptian gods. If they were not able to let go of the wealth or culture then they would have faced the judgment. He goes on to say,
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. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.
The plague of the firstborn was to be the final blow to the Egyptian culture/gods, and with it God is also implementing a lasting holy day in their culture by which they will remember what God has done for them for all generations, and the seder passover dinner is practiced around the world to this day. The problem with the Israelites in Egypt was that they forgot what God had promised them. God was not going to let them forget again so easily.
In the Old Testament there were many festivals and holy days and cultural things that God implemented in the Israelites in order to remind them of his work and power in their past. Even with these they often forgot and wandered away from God. After Jesus we do not live under these laws and we do not have to follow these feasts and rituals, but we still need to make a permanent change in our lives every time that God acts in our lives. We need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has done for us. The passover ceremony was designed to make people ask why they would do such a thing so that the Israelites could tell people the story of the Exodus. Similarly our stories of how God has changed our lives are our most powerful tool for spreading the Gospel.
One of the verses in the Bible that I love is in Hebrews 11 where Abel is mentioned. Genesis 4 mentions that he was born to Adam and Eve, gave his best as an offering to God, and was killed by his brother Cain. This seems like a tragic story but Abel is mentioned in Hebrews 11. This chapter is known as the faith chapter and the first person mentioned was Abel. Hebrews says, “By faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4)
So many of us want to have a lasting influence. Some think education, work, family, sports, or any number of things we achieve will have a lasting impact. Matt.6 tells us to store up treasures with God and this will keep our heart devoted to him. The very little we know about Abel is important because the sacrifice he gave had eternal value. I once asked a 94 yr. old preacher from our area what advice he would give to our youth group. Preacher Ferrell said do one thing a day that has eternal value. What a challenge from a man who is still speaking to us through that challenge even though he is now gone.
Do you want to have a lasting legacy? We can start by accepting Jesus as our Savior and giving whatever is our best to him. What would Abel’s “fatty portions” be equivalent to in our lives. Is it your time, money or abilities. Give those in the service to God and our lives will speak even after we are gone.
In Romans 12:1 we are told to sacrifice our bodies, a living sacrifice. This is our reasonable (or true and proper) “service”. Service is also translated correctly worship. So, a Sunday Service is a time of worship. However, in verse 2 Paul tells us how to do the sacrifice.
When we change our minds to obey God, leaving worldly things and performing God’s will, it’s worship. So, the place of worship is in our own bodies. Many people have been misled into believing that you must be in a particular place to worship. It’s better said you must be in a particular frame of mind to worship.
I have been asked many times during my trips if we have to worship in the chapel. Or, which chapel is the right place to worship. The word they use in the Philippines came from the Spanish priests. “Simbahan”. “Simba” means worship and “han” means place. So naturally they assume the building is the place to worship. Read Genesis 22:1-12 and notice in many translations verse 5 says Abraham worshipped on Mount Moriah.
And what did he do there? Sacrifice. This makes us think of sacrifice as worship. In fact what we sacrifice for God is our worship to him. It’s that we should worship God as we love God. With all of our being and available resources.
What stands in the way of you living completely for Jesus? Not enough time, a secret sin, a preoccupation with _______, a friend taking you in the wrong direction? Many in the early church in Acts were living out a completely committed relationship with God and His Son, Jesus. And the results are exciting to watch as we read through the book. Their faith was living and active and daily – and tested regularly.
I wonder if today too many people who carry the label ‘Christian’ use their faith as a once-a-week booster shot, if they can make it to church that week. But then are quite content to spend the week surrounded by (and sometimes covered in) the germs and sicknesses of worldly living and priorities.
Go ahead and read Acts 19 today and search for all the sold-out characteristics and examples; and while you’re at it – spot the imitations as well (those exist today, too). I particularly like the passage in verses 18-20 where the believers were confessing their practices and bringing their (expensive) magic books to be burned. They had heard about Jesus and they believed and they were excited and ready to change! It’s not that they had heard about Jesus and kind of believed and were sort of interested and wanted to add in some Jesus/church/faith to their full lives. See the huge difference? They were radically changing their lives because they wanted to follow Jesus well.
Do you have anything in your life to add to the bonfire? Anything that is keeping you from being totally committed to God and His Coming Kingdom? Anything that doesn’t mix well with Jesus’ message that you need to give up?
The believers had burned 50,000 drachmas worth of obstacles to living sold-out lives (a drachma was a silver coin worth about one day’s wages) – that’s a lot of obstacles they eliminated! The very next thing Paul wrote was: “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” (Acts 19:20). Sacrifice and true change brought growth. Are you ready to grow?
Hello again everyone!
I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot! The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional. So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week! You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas. Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!
I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter. Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers. Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder! One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know. Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.
We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so! If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole. That is a big responsibility! These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet. Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!
Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others. We are told to do good and share with them. Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers. But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people. And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it! But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone. We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God. Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it! I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.
Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word. Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood! That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing! This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives. He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!
We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us. As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others. In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.
Grace be with you all!