Category Archives: Exodus

Traditions versus Rituals

The LORD’s people left Egypt exactly four hundred thirty years after they had arrived. On that night the LORD kept watch for them, and on this same night each year Israel will always keep watch in honor of the LORD. (Exo.12:41-42 CEV)

The Lord God brought the people of Israel out from their bondage in Egypt. The children of Jacob had now become a nation of over a million people. (600,000 men according to Exo.12:37. There could have been an equal number of women and children. Exo.12:38 includes “many others”.) It was an ocean of people and cattle! Leading them out of the city of Rameses was not a joke. But the Bible tells us in Exo.12:42 that God kept watch over them the night they left. We also see in the next chapter that the Lord covered them with clouds during the day and fire during nights and protected them.

Biblical Traditions

In order to remind them of what He had done for them the Lord commanded them to observe that day each year as the Passover feast. He gave them detailed instructions as to how they should and how they should not observe it.  The Lord also instructed them that as they observe this feast they should explain to their children the reason behind it. Thus it became a rich and meaningful tradition which  reminded the people of the great deliverance their forefathers experienced and honored God.

They also kept another tradition of keeping a night watch on that night each year and the Bible tells us that they did it to “honor the Lord” (12:42). Biblical traditions are followed by churches with this intention, to remind people of the faithfulness of God and to consciously honor Him for His glorious deeds.

Religious Rituals

Traditions that are not rooted in the Word of God and do not honor God are just rituals that satisfy our human yearning and guilt. They are observed without convincing reasons or valuable purposes. They often honor people rather than God. They drag you away from the real worship of the true God and lead you into hypocrisy and idolatry.

Good traditions are meant to honor God for what He has done in our lives. Do we honor God through our traditions or simply follow rituals for mental satisfaction?

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The Principle of Redemption

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 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. (Exo.12:12-13 ESV)

The Lord revealed to the people of Israel His principle of redemption. It was through the death of the unblemished lamb whose blood would cover them from disaster. In 12:22 we see that they were asked to remain within the blood-marked shelter for their protection. This is the same principle operating for the Church today. The blood of the Lamb of God- Jesus Christ would cover everyone who would come under its shelter by faith.

Unblemished substitute

You and I are without excuse before the holy God whose justice says that a sinner should die. We can not pay the penalty and live. No one else can do it for us except a sinless person. That is the reason Jesus had to come as a human.

The Passover was a foreshadow of the greater plan of salvation God had for the entire world. The blood of the Passover lamb was the cover for the people of Israel that saved them on the day of destruction. The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the holy Lamb of God is the cover for anyone who takes refuge beneath it. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins the moment we acknowledge Him as our Savior. What a consolation for us that we don’t have to die in our own sins because Jesus swapped it with us. Only Jesus could do this because He was the unblemished Lamb of God, the sinless Son of God, who became our substitute.

No bones broken

The Passover lamb had to be unblemished and none of its bones were to be broken. This points to the Lamb of God Jesus and His death on the cross. In John 19:36 we read about Him that none of His bones were broken though there was a custom of breaking the bones of the criminal.

Have you come under this ‘blood-cover’? Thank God if you have. Let’s share this good news with others and invite many into this ‘shelter’ from sin and death.

The Sovereign Ruler

 I have come to let you know what the LORD is going to do. About midnight he will go through the land of Egypt, 5and wherever he goes, the first-born son in every family will die. Your own son will die, and so will the son of the lowest slave woman. Even the first-born males of cattle will die.6Everywhere in Egypt there will be loud crying. Nothing like this has ever happened before or will ever happen again. (Exo.11 CEV)

The Lord spoke to Moses and told him to go to the Pharaoh and warn him about the plagues. But the king was stubborn and refused to let the
Israelites go. He was like god to his people and was unwilling to submit to the authority of God. Through the plagues that came up on the Egyptians and the sparing of the Israelites God was trying to prove to the former that He is the sovereign ruler and to the latter that it was He who delivered them from slavery with His mighty hand.

We need this reminder everyday that God is the sovereign LORD of all and that we are delivered from our bondage to sin by the mighty act of
God, by the death of His first born Son on the cross that allowed His only begotten Son to be our substitute.

Reply to the killing of Israelite male babies ordered by the Pharaoh when Moses was born.

Oppressive Religion

The king sent for Moses and Aaron and told them, ” Now I have really sinned! My people and I are guilty, and the LORD is right. We can’t stand any more of this thunder and hail. Please ask the LORD to make it stop. Your people can go–you don’t have to stay in Egypt any longer.” (Exo.9:27-28 CEV)

The Pharaoh of Egypt was the god of a religious system prevalent at that time. Discrimination and oppression was the order of the day. Political tyranny and the unquenchable thirst for power was evident then as it is now. Rulers went to any length to make sure that their position was safe. They display fake religiosity and piety to get what they want. In some sense they feel they are gods or at least on par with deity. Billions of people in this world are ruled by groups of such monstrous potentates, both political and religious. They prevent their people from knowing and living the truth.

“Let My People Go”

But the God of the Universe is demanding that they free God’s creation from their selfish control. He says, “Let my people go” so that they will worship Me their Creator. Even religions try to hide the truth and misguide people. Millions today are confused and are uncertain about God’s purpose for their lives.

In the book of Exodus in the Bible, we have the history of the people of Israel under the rule of Pharaoh. God blessed them in the land of Egypt and their prosperity aroused the hatred of the people of the land. The Egyptians felt threatened by the flourishing families of the people of God. The Egyptians could not understand the promise or the covenant of God with the Jewish people. Their minds were set on the political superiority and stability of their kingdom. They could not understand that God had better plans for His people than taking over the Pharaoh’s kingdom.

False Repentance

Pharaoh was not sincere in his repentance, though he admitted ” Now I have really sinned“. He has been sinning at other times too. But the reason behind his owning up responsibility is seen there itself- “We can’t stand any more of this thunder and hail.”  He just wanted relief from the plague and nothing more. This is how political leaders are. They have their own agenda and all they do is to get that accomplished. There is no consideration of justice, fairness or truthfulness. They forget their accountability as shepherds or overseers or elected representatives of God’s people. They repress the freedom of the people under their care and prevent them from coming to the knowledge of truth and light. Some religions are repressive too. They put strict warnings on their people against exercising their freedom to weigh evidences and making choices. This is nothing but religious slavery and the unfolding of a wicked agenda. God is going to come heavily up on all such oppressive leadership and set His people free so that they can worship Him the true God. Leaders are accountable for the way their followers choose to go.

Conditional Promises

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.“I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run.“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River. (Ex.23:20-22, 27, 31)

God initiated a Covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, the effects of which will remain true to his descendants for all generations. There God asked Abraham to let go of all his earthly possessions and to follow His directions. At this point nothing was clear about God’s directions, but there were few solid promises. God kept reassuring Abraham, and his descendants later, about these promises as He elaborated on His directions little by little. God spelled out conditions and demanded compliance from all Israel.

Several generations later, when the Israelites were heading towards the land of Canaan, God was fulfilling His Covenant promise to Abraham. He still kept elaborating His directions in the form of laws and instructions as seen in this passage.

God Our Defender

God promised Abraham that He will bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse him. Now God tells Abraham’s descendants that their enemies will be His enemies and He will oppose Israel’s enemies. He will destroy their weapons, arrest their advances, and chase them away. They will fear the God of Israel, not Israel, and thus, God will get the glory. God promised Abraham a geographic territory for his descendants. Now God describes the boundaries of that land to the people of Israel. The land was their’s to possess. God promised to drive away the inhabitants and cleanse the land for their occupation. All these are dependent on their faithful obedience to God’s directions.

God Our Guide

Here, God reveals a bit more of His directions. He promises to send an Angel (Messenger, Representative) to go before them and instruct them, to protect them and guard them. He will not tolerate rebellion but expects submissive obedience. God keeps His promises and we need to keep ours too.

The Angel points to the Lord Jesus Christ and more to the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. In many places we see the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Jehovah Himself. Here, the Angel has God’s Name in Him-Elohim, Yhwh, Adonai, the eternal I AM. God tells the people: “listen to this Angel and do all that I tell you”. Interestingly, God was pointing towards the coming of His Son and then the ministry of the Holy Spirit in preparing God’s people outside Israel to inherit the ‘promised land’.

God’s Laws

And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; …”You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, …”Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Ex. 20:1-11)

This is the first part of the Ten Commandments God gave to His people through Moses. This reveals God’s demands regarding His people’s relationship with Him.

God’s Laws are for God’s people

This is not emphasized as a universal code of conduct, though God is the Owner and Master of everything. It has specific reference to God’s own people, people chosen by God to be His own possession from among all the peoples of the world. This is not for them to observe, and by doing so, be adopted as God’s people. Rather, it is for them to live up to because they have been chosen to be God’s people. In this case, one had to be born as a descendant of Abraham to be a member of God’s people.

So in the Church, the body of Jesus Christ. One has to be ‘born again’ as a child of God, by the regenerating power of the Spirit of God. Those who are thus born into the family of God are given the Word of God. Others can go through it and find the God it reveals. No one can gain acceptance into God’s family by trying to follow the book. Obedience is the prerogative of God’s people. Others are brought into the family through the obedience of His children.

God’s Laws reveal God’s standards

This reveals God’s heart, His plan for His own people and the rest of the world. It reveals God’s holy standard and calls us to grow towards it. It is God’s expectation of His people. God made it clear that by obeying the Law no one could be justified before God. What was revealed in the Old Testament was a foreshadow of the final and perfect, revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ. His blood alone, not that of animals, could atone for the sins of mankind.

They should not give the place of their God to anyone or anything else. This is blasphemy because their God has no equals, He is the Creator of everything, the Eternal One. They should not be carried away to make models and images of mysterious or incomprehensible objects. They should not take the name of their God lightly, for He is an awesome God. He should be worshiped and time should be set apart to be away from all other occupations and to be in His presence together as a community of God’s people.

Covenant People

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. (Ex.19:4-6, 10-12)

The Lord God brought the people of Israel out of bondage and set them apart to be His people. This was a choice God made and established through a covenant between Him and the people.

God Initiated Covenant

It was God who initiated this covenant and not man. Thus, it is founded on God’s faithfulness rather than the efficacy of human deeds. God is calling people to keep the covenant conditions as He does. He wants them as His treasured possession out of all the peoples of the world.

But, Israel blew it, for our good of course.

God Imputed Righteousness

Today the church, the body of Christ, is invited into a relationship with God through the covenant initiated at the cross of Calvary. Our sin has been transferred into Christ’s account and His righteousness credited into ours. To meet with the Holy and awesome God we need this righteousness. He is a consuming fire as much as He is love. Sin will never be tolerated and permitted into His holy presence. So, purify ourselves or be ready to face the fire.

Will He say, “I did everything on my part but you blew it!”