Blood that Talked
The title of this sermon is Blood that Talked. The title almost sounds like it could be a thriller murder mystery on television.
There is a common saying. A picture is worth one thousand words. When I was in high school a student asked if he could put three pictures in his term paper, instead of writing a three thousand word term paper. One picture is truly worth one thousand words. In the passage of the Bible we will discuss, we will look at the words in the picture of blood painted on the door frames of the children of Israel.
Talking about blood and Christianity is not very popular in today's sanitized culture. We do not like thinking of blood or seeing blood, unless it is pictured on some murder mystery. To the ancients, blood was an important symbol. Today we will reflect on the ancient symbol of blood and how the Biblical authors understood that symbol.
The text for this week comes from Exodus chapter 10. Rabbi Harvey Fields identifies two major themes in the chapters surrounding the passage we will study. Those themes are receiving gold and silver from the Egyptians and the beginnings of Passover celebrations.1 I see two other major themes in - justice and grace. The themes of receiving Egyptian silver and gold, and the start of Passover celebrations seem secondary to the themes of justice and grace.
Moses tells the Pharaoh that the Lord will kill all of the first-born in Egypt. Exodus 10:4 (Moffatt Bible) Moses said, “The Eternal declares that he will pass through Egypt about midnight, when all the first-born in Egypt shall die, from the eldest son of the Pharoah on the throne to the eldest son of the slave-girl at the mill, with all the first-born of all the cattle.
The children of Israel are told to kill a perfect lamb or kid,2 to kill the animal between sunset and dark, and to smear blood on the door posts.3 This is so when the Eternal moved through the land killing the first-born, God would not harm those in the homes marked with blood.
Exodus 12:13 (Moffatt Bible) The blood shall mark the houses where you live, and when I see the blood I will pass over you, sparing you a deadly stroke, as I strike down the land of Egypt.
The blood said several things. The blood talks about the sacrifice, the satisfaction of God’s purpose, the substitution, submission to God and salvation.4
Sacrifice.5 The blood said, “God sacrificed for me.” I do not see the young lamb or the labors of the people as the real sacrifice. The sacrifice was made by God, not by the children of Israel. The children of Israel were slaves to an oppressive and abusive government. God is the one who performed miracles, who did all of the work to give the children of Israel freedom. And later in the wilderness, it was God who worked to lead the Israelites, to provide them with food and water. The Lord defeated the enemies of the children of Israel so the children of Israel could possess the promised land.
Blood still speaks to us. The blood of Jesus powerfully makes the same point. The blood spilled at Calvary cries out, “God sacrificed for you!” The Word says, Christ is our Passover!6
Satisfaction of God’s power.7 The blood said, “I am completely satisfied by God’s power.” That means God’s power is able to completely meet our real needs. God can do that, because God is able to vindicate us, discharge the legal obligations and debts we owe, prove we are His in a court of law and provide us with the assurance of His continued love.
As the Lord lead the people out of Egypt, provided for their every physical need and protected them, the people’s needs were completely satisfied by God. In our lives, God protects us and supplies our needs. We are satisfied by His power.
Submission to God.8 The blood said, “I submit to the Lord.” The blood on the doors showed the people were under God’s authority. That means the children of Israel were agreeing to defer to God’s superior wisdom and power.
There is some thought the Lord did not need to have the houses marked. First, most of the children of Israel lived in Goshen.9 Second, all of the first born were condemned in Egypt. The sentence against the first born did not distinguish between the Jewish first born and the Egyptian first born.10 The blood on the doorways was a visible testimony that the people were under God’s authority and leadership, not the leadership and authority of humans.
In ancient times, the first born sons had a special rank.11 When God said the first born sons would die, God aimed directly at those with special rank, at those who thought their special rank made exempted them from letting God lead, from letting God be in charge. A person’s power and position are not important to the Lord. He looks for something more important that rank.
In today's world, we have first born sons and second born sons. The first born are those who of privilege. The first born in America are white, affluent, straight men. Women, immigrants, people of color, the poor and sexual minorities are second born. Many people in this congregation know what it feels like to be second born, to not have privilege. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people experience a lot of discrimination. The message to those who feel like the second born, is that the privileged, the first born get no special favors from God! Gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified people have the same spiritual rights as straight people. In the Kingdom of God, there are no second born sons, there are no second-class citizens.
Even the Pharaoh’s eldest son was not exempt. This was because the Pharaoh would not place his personal sovereignty under God’s sovereignty. Pharaoh’s real sin was not letting God be god.12
The truth is that God does not want just our wonderful outward signs of piety, such as baptism or celebration of festivals. He does not want only our dedicated labor of love, our service, our tithes or our offerings. What God wants is not the signs of spiritual riches. He wants us to have the real spiritual riches that are found only when we let God’s sovereignty be over our own personal sovereignty.
Salvation.13 The blood said, “God is my salvation.“ The children of Israel’s bondage was ending. Moses had delivered the declaration of independence to the Pharaoh. Freedom from slavery was beginning. And that freedom was won by the hand of God.
The Lord is still in the business of salvation. He is moving to bring us total and complete liberty from the ravages that sin and sickness have brought to the world. And at the end of time, we will see it was all won by the hand of God.
As you reflect on the story of the Passover, I invite you to think about the blood that covers the door posts of your heart. What does that blood say to you? How can you help others hear the blood speak?
1Harvey J. Fields. A Torah Commentary for Our Times. Vol. 2 (New York: UAHC Press, 1991), 27.
2Exodus 12: 4-5.
4James Smith. Handfuls on Purpose. Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub., 1947), 276. The longest explanation Smith gives is a sentence long.
5This contrasts with Smith’s explanation of the “Lamb slain”, 276.
6Smith, Vol. 2, 69, cites 1 Corinthians 5:7.
7Smith looks at this as God’s purpose accomplished through the blood.
8Smith views this as the faith and obedience of the people, 176.
9Jean M. Alley, et. al. The Open Bible: New Living Translation. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1998), 91, state the blood “was not simply to mark the Israelite homes. The Hebrews were already by themselves in Goshen.”
10James Smith. Handfuls on Purpose. Vol. 2. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub., 1947), 68.See Exodus 11:4-6 and 12:12.
11Alley, et. al., 91.
12Alley, et. al. state, “Pharaoh’s real problem was that he would not surrender his self-assertiveness and the maintenance of his sovereignty. This is the essence of sin”, 90.
13Smith sees the children of Israel’s safety depending on the blood, 276.