"There's Still Time"#87-32
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 5, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Exodus 11-12
"You can still come home with us," they said. But Holly wouldn't listen. "I can't," she said. "I'm not done yet. I'm not ready." Her parents had come all the way from Michigan to pick her up. It had been a 30-day sentence for possession of a controlled substance. Her mom and dad had not been prepared to see their little girl in handcuffs, in an orange jumpsuit chained in a line with other convicts. "You can still come home," they pleaded with her. Holly hadn't seen herself as an addict. She was desensitized to their warnings. She didn't understand the severity of the consequences.
Holly told me later, "I just wasn't done doing what I was doing." I've known Holly's family on and off for 20 years. I spoke with her and her mom recently, and they gave me their permission to share some of their story. I changed her name for the sake of their privacy along with some of the details. I asked Holly's mom, "So what did you do when she wouldn't come home with you?" "We left her," they said. "We had flown from Michigan to pick her up. We bought one-way tickets because she had our car there. We planned to drive it back together, the three of us." Holly was at some friend's house when her parents told her they were taking her home. They told her that they'd be back tomorrow at 8 a.m. to pick her up, and when the time came Holly wouldn't go. She was acting strange again. One day out of jail and she was already using again.
"We've got the spare key and we are taking the car home. You can still come with us." Holly told me later that when they drove away, she wasn't sad. She was angry. "It didn't make sense to me. I was high again and upset that they took my car and all I could think was 'Oh, this is going to make things difficult.'" When I asked her mom what it felt like from her side of things, she told me, "We didn't hear from her for the next nine months. We didn't know if she was living or dead. We just left her there in the streets. I cried all the way home. To the depths of my soul, it crushed me to do that."
This week followers of Jesus all over the world are celebrating Holy Week. It's the week in history that ended with the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, our Leader, our King. He was executed for the charge of claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah, King of the Jews. Even before Jesus was crucified, this was a Holy Week. It was holy because of Passover. They remembered how the Lord their God had rescued them in an exodus out of slavery in Egypt. Jesus Himself, with His family, would have made the trip to Jerusalem many times every year, but this year it would be different. This year Jesus would celebrate the Passover one last time in this mortal life.
See, Jesus believed that He was leading a greater exodus out of mortal life, into true life with God, a rescue from a more deep-seated slavery, a redemption through a more perfect sacrifice. And to the depths of His soul, it would crush Him to do this. In His last meal with His disciples that week, Jesus told them that He was the Passover lamb, that His blood shed on the cross would save them.
Now, to understand the depths of Jesus' words and actions we need to hear the original Passover story. It started when God sent Moses. God sent Moses to rescue God's people out of Egypt. He sent Moses to bring them from slavery so that they could be God's family, so that they could welcome with open arms all the families of the earth into God's household, into the household of faith. But Pharaoh wasn't having it in his house. He wasn't done doing what he was doing with them. And the more Moses spoke God's words of warning to Pharaoh, the more desensitized, the more hardened he became. God sent nine plagues against Pharaoh and against Egypt. He turned their river to blood. He sent armies of invading frogs and gnats and flies, sicknesses and skin diseases, hail, locust, and darkness, and still Pharaoh won't listen.
And the story picks up there in Exodus 11.
Now the Lord said to Moses, "Yet one more plague will I bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. And after that he will send you out from here and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Now you say in the hearing of all the people that every man is to ask of his neighbor, and every woman is to ask of her neighbor four articles of silver and gold." See, the Lord gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians. And Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh's servants and by the people.
So Moses spoke. "This is what the Lord says: 'At about midnight tonight, I, Myself will pass through Egypt and every firstborn son in Egypt will die. From the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on the throne to the firstborn of the servant girl at her hand mill and the first born of all the livestock as well. And there will be a great cry in all of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But among the children of Israel, not a dog will bark at any man or beast so that you may know that the Lord, He makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.' And then these, all your servants, they will come to Me, and they will bow down to Me saying, 'Go, you and all the people who follow you.' After that I will leave." And Moses, burning with anger, left Pharaoh. Now the Lord had told Moses, "Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you so that My wonders may be multiplied in Egypt."
And so Moses and Aaron, they performed all these wonders in the presence of Pharaoh, and the Lord made Pharaoh's stubborn. And he would not send the people out of his land. Now the Lord had said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, "This month is to be the first month for you. The first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the 10th day of this month, every man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. And if any household is too small for a lamb, let them share with their nearest neighbor, according to how many people that there are, make the count for the lamb based on how much each person can eat. You must select your animals from the males, one year old without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or from the goats. Take care of them until the 14th day of this month. Then the whole community of Israel is to slaughter their lambs at twilight.
"Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and the top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat the lamb. That same night, you must eat the flesh roasted over the fire with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast and this is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt and your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand, eat it quickly. It is the Lord's Passover. On that same night, I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of man and animal alike, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am who I am. And 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.
"This is the day you are to commemorate for the generations to come. Celebrate this as a lasting festival to the Lord." And Moses, he summoned all the elders of Israel and he said to them, "Go, select animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood in the basin and put it on the top and on the sides of the doorframe. None of you is to go out of the door of your house until morning. And when the Lord goes through Egypt, He will see the blood on the top and on the sides of the doorframe, and He will pass over that door. He will not permit the destroyer to enter your house and strike you down. Keep this as a lasting ordinance for you and for your descendants. And when you go into the land that the Lord has given you as He promised, keep this ceremony. And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' You tell them it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord. When the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt and He spared our homes, when He struck down the Egyptians." Then all the people, they bowed down, and they worshiped. The children of Israel did all that the Lord had told Moses and Aaron.
At midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. And the Egyptians, they got up in the middle of the night, Pharaoh and his servants and all the people, and there was a great cry in all Egypt because there was not a house without someone dead. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the middle of the night, and he said, "Go. Leave my people, you and the children of Israel, go serve the Lord as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds and bless me also."
And the Egyptians, they urged the people to hurry and leave the land. They were saying, "We will all be dead." So the people took their dough without yeast and carried it on their shoulders and kneading bowls wrapped in clothing. The children of Israel did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and clothing. And the Lord gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and so, in this way, they plundered the Egyptians.
The people journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 men on foot, along with women and children, and a great mixed multitude of people, along with large droves of flocks and herds and livestock. And with the dough that the children of Israel had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt, and they did not have time to prepare food for themselves. The time that the children of Israel were in Egypt was 430 years. And after 430 years to the very day, all the divisions of the Lord left Egypt. It was a night of keeping watch for the Lord to bring them out of the land of Egypt. And so this night is a night of keeping watch for the Lord, for all the children of Israel, for the generations to come.
The Word of the Lord, Exodus 11 and 12, excerpts.
My friend Holly struggled with addiction for 15 years. For a long time she didn't see herself as an addict. "I wasn't done being that person yet," she said. "I didn't even know what redemption was or that I needed it." This is the nature of our deep-seated slavery. Now, you might not consider yourself an addict. I don't see myself as an addict, at least not in the substance abuse way. But as I listened to Holly's story, I thought about my own story and I remember that there are two ways that you can be unreceptive and hardened to the Word of the Lord and the love of God: you can be unreceptive by being very bad, and you can be unreceptive by being very good. And if Holly fell into the former, then I can certainly fall into the latter. It's because slavery is not about the substances that you use. It's about what you serve. What are you serving?
God told Moses that He was bringing His final judgment, not on the people of Egypt but on the gods of Egypt—the things that they were serving, the things that they feared and loved and trusted above all else. These things were gifts from God, from their Creator. He gave them their land; He gave them their houses; He gave them their children. But when their king put these things above God, when they put these things above God, when you and I put these things above God, we become unreceptive and hardened to the love of God, and we become enslaved to our things. And so God sent His Son, Jesus, to be our Passover lamb. And Jesus gave His blood on the cross for us to set us free and to bring us home.
Jesus has risen from the dead, and He has sent me to tell you that there is still time for you to come home. Maybe you're not looking for redemption. Maybe you're not done doing what you're doing. Then I pray that God would show you the severity of the consequences of turning away from Him. I pray you would know some of the hell that comes from turning from God so that you might know that there's still time for you to come home, because it won't always be this way. Time is running out. Judgment is coming. Once again, the Lord will pass through the land on that final day of judgment, and time will be out, and so come in now. Come in to the house that's been marked by the blood of the lamb, and if you are in the house, if you are in the household of faith, there's still time for you. There's still time for you to bring someone else in, to bring everyone else in, but it won't always be this way. Time is running out and so, go, bring them in, bring them into the house that's been marked by the blood of Jesus.
I asked Holly how her parents have shown her the sacrificial love of Jesus. She told me, "There are things that I have done that I can never pay back. But when the time came, they took me back. No questions." I asked Holly's mom what it was like for her. She told me, "We didn't hear from her for nine months. We didn't know if she was alive or dead. There were nights when I just kept crying out to God, and I realized that God had to do a work in my heart. And He was doing a work in my heart so that I would trust that He loves my children more than I can love them and that He's working on their hearts."
Holly's been sober for almost two years. She's learned something about recovery and redemption. And it's not just about escaping from some habits, from judgment, from slavery. It's about being welcomed back into a family, in the Name of Jesus.
If you're willing, I invite you to pray with me. Dear Father, Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb, He has been sacrificed, and so bring me in to the house that's been marked by His blood. Bring everyone in. Bring my friends and my family, bring my enemies, bring all the nations. Bring us all into the house that's been marked by His blood because He lives and He reigns with You, with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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Reflections for April 5, 2020
Title: There's Still Time
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For free online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and much more, go to lutheranhour.org. Once again, here's Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. I have joining me again Dr. Bob Kolb. He's a long-time teacher for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and for many other church bodies throughout the world. He's one of the world's leading scholars on the Reformation, and especially the writings of Dr. Martin Luther. Dr. Kolb's not wearing a tie today, but he's going to be talking as though he were. Thanks for joining me.
Robert Kolb: It's great to be here.
Mike Zeigler: So Martin Luther lived about 500 and some years ago. Do you recall if he has said something memorable about the book of Exodus since we are in that book right now on this program?
Robert Kolb: He places a lot of weight on the deliverance of Israel as an old Testament prophecy of the way Christ would come to deliver us. So Exodus was important, particularly because of its being centered on the story of God's entering into human history and freeing His people. And when he talked about the death and resurrection of Christ, he talked about it as a sacrifice for sin, but he also often talked about it as God's victory. And there the model of God's victory, God's liberation of His people from Israel, was a great model for him.
Mike Zeigler: So the act of God to rescue His people from slavery through a sacrifice that would mark the people—that became one of the models that Luther would use to talk about the work of Jesus.
Robert Kolb: Yes.
Mike Zeigler: Okay. And clearly, he's just following the apostle Paul in this, as he says in 1 Corinthians 5 that Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. What does that mean in his writings, that he would see Christ as his Passover Lamb, our Passover Lamb?
Robert Kolb: Luther uses two Bible passages, Romans 4:25, Christ was handed over into death on account of our sin, or to take care of our sin. I'd like to paraphrase. And then He was raised to restore our righteousness. And with that he pairs John the Baptist's words, John 1:29, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." At these key places in his confession of the faith, or his instruction in how to preach the Gospel, Luther brings this picture of the Lamb of God, the Pascal Lamb, the Sacrificial Lamb, the One who doesn't give a liter of blood and then go back to play in the fields, but who dies on the altar, the one who ... well, I used to say, who paid the price for our sins, but looking at Romans 6:23, He actually garnishee our paychecks. He came and stole the wages we had gotten from sin out of our hand and took it and hid it in the safety deposit box of His tomb.
Mike Zeigler: And drawing on the Exodus narrative, it's not simply the sins that we do and are guilty for, but rather the sin that would enslave us.
Robert Kolb: Yes.
Mike Zeigler: And His death is the means by which we are set free from that.
Robert Kolb: Because he's talking about the law as a call to repentance. Repentance is always returning to fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things and that means that his explanations not only speak to us as perpetrators of sin, but also as victims of sin. When we experience other people damaging us in our body, in our sexuality, in our property, in our reputations, for instance. As victims, we also flee to this One who frees us from the oppression of the various pharaohs in our lives, whether they're inside us or outside us.
Mike Zeigler: Why is this important for Christians today to think of salvation in these Exodus terms?
Robert Kolb: Well, I think we are experiencing an increase in slaveries of various kinds and the symptoms of that to come in these rising rates of suicide and depression and the like. We think we're a happy nation, but in many ways we're frustrated. We feel possibilities vanishing that we think are our right to have, and so forth. And to be freed from our own expectation, of our own false expectations, which become our idols, our gods, to be freed from our own sinful lusts and practices, to be freed from other people who take away our sense of self-worth and dignity. All that can be wrapped up in God's freeing action as Israel experienced it and as the early church experienced it in Christ's death and resurrection.
Mike Zeigler: Let us all in Christ be free.
Robert Kolb: Yes.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you for joining me.
Robert Kolb: Pleasure.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)