The Night of the Passover
December 28th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
THE NIGHT OF PASSOVER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 11, 12
12-28-58 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, the early morning message, from the latter part of the tenth, and then the eleventh, and twelfth chapters of the Book of Exodus [Exodus 10,11,12]. And if you would like to follow the message, you can easily do so by turning to the latter part of the tenth chapter of the Book of Exodus. We have been following the life of Moses, and these last several Sunday mornings have followed him after his call from the Lord [Exodus 3:1-10], down into Egypt, and the delivery of the message of God to Pharaoh, “Let My people go! I have called them out of bondage, out of slavery, out of the darkness of that dark land into the glorious promise, and liberty, and hope, and life of the sons of God. Let My people go!” [Exodus 5:1].
And Pharaoh says, “I will not let them go; I never heard of God. I do not know who He is. This Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, is a strange deity to me. I do not know the Lord, I will not obey His voice, neither will I let Israel go” [Exodus 5:2]. So the Lord God in heaven proceeded to teach Pharaoh who He was. And all those gods and goddesses of Egypt, who were supposed to preside over the land and to protect the people; one by one, God delivered a crushing, smashing blow against them. If the Nile was the goddess of the fertility and life of the land, the Lord God Jehovah turned it into a gory, stinking stream [Exodus 7:14-25]. And if the sun presided over all the heavens, and the god Ra was the chief of all of the deities of Egypt, the Lord God Jehovah blotted him out. He didn’t even shine; for three solid days there was darkness in the land, darkness so thick you could feel It [Exodus 10:21-29]. So all those plagues, one after another, teaching Pharaoh who the Lord Jehovah is; but Pharaoh was like a plastic ball. Under pressure after each plague he’d decide to relent. He’d let maybe some of the people go. He’d make some offer of compromise; but like a plastic ball, under pressure he would relent. But when the pressure was removed, he’d distend again to full, obstreperous, disobedient rotundity.
So after nine plagues Pharaoh still was obdurate and incalcitrant [Exodus 7:14-10:27]. So after the ninth plague, now we come to the latter part of the tenth chapter of Exodus. After the ninth plague, Pharaoh said unto Moses, “Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die, Get out! Never walk through these portals again and never let me see your face anymore; get out!” [Exodus 10:28]. That’s what Pharaoh said unto Moses. Now you look at the answer of Moses. How ominous are these words: “And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” [Exodus 10:29]. Ah! That brings to our hearts some of those terrible last moments when a man says to God, “I don’t want to hear Your call any longer. I don’t want any preacher, or any emissary, or any ambassador, or any evangelist, or any missionary from Thy courts visiting me anymore, talking to me anymore, inviting me anymore, I don’t want to hear God’s call anymore.” And God says, “Thou hast spoken well. We will not call anymore.”
You know, you have an idea that a man can be converted any time. Theologically, of course, that’s possible; theoretically, of course, that’s always possible, but actually, really, I don’t know of anything more commonly seen than this: that there is a day, and a point, and a time beyond which when a man goes, he’s never saved. He dies lost and unconverted. You can just say, “No!” to God, and, “No!” to God, and “No!” to God, until finally God says, “It is ‘no,’ you have settled it.” There are very few men who are ever saved who have said “No, no, no!” to God; very, very few. They have statistics on it. When I read those statistics, I can hardly realize it, but those statistics say there’s not one man who’s said “No!” to God, and “No!” to God, and “No!” to God; there’s not one man out of thousands, and thousands, and thousands, who ever is saved.
That’s an awful thing, and Pharaoh said, “Get out! Take heed, see my face no more. I am tired of these appeals from Jehovah; get out!” [Exodus 10:28]. And Moses said, “Thou hast spoken well, I am getting out, I will see thy face again no more” [Exodus 10:29]. But O Lord, Lord! You are not done with God when you say “No!” to Him. Down that certain day, that final inevitable hour, there’s a great, and awful, and terrible day coming. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Exodus, you have a little interlude. That’s why a man says “No!” to God; the judgment day does not fall immediately. If when a man said “No!” to God the Lord cast him into fire, and into brimstone, and into smoke, and into hell, and into the fury of the awful judgment, it’d be different. But it doesn’t happen that way. When a man says “No!” to God, there’s no judgment that falls; everything is quiet, goes on about like it does. I don’t know why God does that, but that is true all through the Book. This eleventh chapter is typical of that; the eleventh chapter is a lull, it’s a silence, it’s an interlude. It’s a little space of time when Pharaoh says, “No, I don’t want you knocking at my door any longer. I don’t want you talking to my children. I don’t want you telephoning my wife. I don’t want you inviting us to God or to the church. Get out!” And Moses says, “I will get out” [Exodus 10:28-29]. There’s an interlude, there’s a space [Exodus 11:4-7].
I have just said that’s typical of all of the story of God. You’ll find that little interlude in the eighth chapter of the Revelation when He opened the seventh seal. There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour [Revelation 8:1]. “I saw the seven angels which stood before God. Each one had a trumpet.” Before the awful judgment of the blowing of the trumpets there was silence in heaven, an interlude [Revelation 8:1-2]. All of life is like that. The judgment of God waits. There’s an interlude, there’s an intermission, there’s a little time. But, ah! That doesn’t mean it’s not coming! That doesn’t mean the fires of hell are quenched, or the fury of God is abated, or the wrath of the Almighty is forgotten. There’s an awful day and a terrible hour coming, and this eleventh chapter is a typical interlude, an intermission, a quietness before that terrible judgment of God. Now look at the eleventh chapter. And Moses said beginning at the fourth verse:
And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the crowned prince of Pharaoh, he that sitteth upon the throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill;
And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.
But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog wag his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.
Don’t you find then that again one of those dark, dark pictures of the great final judgment day of Almighty God? “This night, this night, I go out into the midst of Egypt” [Exodus 11:4]; God’s interposition in human time, and human history, and human story [Exodus 11:5-7]. As surely as God lives and as surely as this earth stands, God shall not always permit evil to look up into heaven’s face and blaspheme the name of the Almighty. Some day in God’s appointed time, the hand of the Almighty shall be openly revealed. Evil shall not live in this world forever, nor shall men blaspheme the name of God with impunity. There is coming a day when God will interpose in human history, and there will be a great separation, “that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” [Exodus 11:7].
There’re only two people in this world, the saved and the lost; just two. We divide them up in many, many ways, all kinds of nationalities, all kinds of degrees of goodness; but God doesn’t. There are only two kinds of people in this world; they who live in the bondage of darkness, and they who live in the light and liberty of the glorious sons of God. Right now they all live together; the wheat and the tares side-by-side; the sheep and the goats grazing in the same pasture. But there is coming a day and a time when God will separate [Matthew 25:31-46], “that ye may know God doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” [Exodus 11:4-7]. God puts that difference. It’s not how I think, or how we might choose. God puts the difference. “And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt” [Exodus 11:6]. That is a picture and a type, an adumbration, a pre-figuration of that awful and final judgment day of Almighty God. “And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt,” when God separates His people from the world [Matthew 25:31-46].
Do you remember a few Sundays ago I spoke of an old, white-headed Indiana preacher? Remember that? I never did have time to tell the story that he told. Theologically it isn’t quite correct, I suppose. But spiritually the story that old, white-headed preacher told that day is so true. He was speaking of the division that God places between His people and the world, and he illustrated it like this. He said, “I have been a pastor, a Baptist pastor, 50, 60 years.” And he said, “How many, how many times have I gone to my church, and they bring in the casket, and the family sits there before me. And after the memorial service, the casket is opened, and the people file by. And the family come and look on the still, silent face and form of a loved one who has passed away. And they cry saying, ‘Goodbye, husband,’ or, ‘Goodbye, baby,’ or, ‘Goodbye, Mother,’ or, ‘Goodbye, Daddy.’”
He said, “That isn’t goodbye. That’s not goodbye.” He said, “This is goodbye: in that great, final assize, when God separates His own from the world, here is a godly mother, here is a godly wife, or here is a godly child, and when God separates His people from the world, when that wife bids farewell to her husband,” he said, “that is goodbye forever, and forever, and forever. For when that godly child says goodbye to a faithless, ungodly, unbelieving parent, that,” he said, “is goodbye.”
It’s not goodbye here. That’s just temporary. The separation and the bereavement we sustain in this life is just for a moment. But that eternal, final goodbye is in the great judgment day of Almighty God when the Lord separates between His people and the world, “That ye may know that God doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” [Exodus 11:7]. “And there was a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt” [Exodus 11:6]. Ah, you people who think this thing of religion is a matter of a country club, “I can take it or leave it. I can accept it or reject it. I can join up or not, it’s immaterial. It’s like belonging to the Kiwanis Club or not belonging to the Kiwanis Club.”
You know, I have a funny feeling every time I read what these psychiatrists say and these psychologists write. They get a hold of a screwball, or a nut, or a crackpot, and they try to straighten him out. They feel of his knots on his head and go through all of his past experiences, most of which they probe into discolorations and all kinds of uncleanliness, I don’t know why they’ve got a mania for that. I’ve talked to a thousand, thousand people who’ve been to psychiatrists, and they tell me almost without exception that when the psychiatrist talks to them, he talks to them about the filthy side of life as though that’s the only thing that makes any difference. You’d think that Freud had colored the whole horizon and that all there is in life is the filthy side of it. And they probe into it and probe into it; I say ninety-nine percent of that is because the prober’s got a diseased mind. He likes to probe into that; he’s like that. Life is a whole lot more than a sore, and there’s a whole lot of things in life beside what Freud says makes it tick.
Well, what was I talking about when I got off on the psychiatrists? In the twefth chapter of the Book of Exodus [Exodus 12], you have one of the great, great chapters of the Bible. The twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis is one of the fine, fine, noble, glorious departures of God, when the Lord calls Abram out. “I will bless thee and make thy name great” [Genesis 12:1-2]. Now the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus is likewise a tremendous chapter [Exodus 12]. The Lord God is getting ready to make a difference between His people and the people of the world. And this is the way that God did it.
And could I pause here? Could I parenthesize to say that in this twelfth chapter of Exodus, you could hardly imagine God doing a more astounding thing, an unusual thing, in their haste; in that dark night, such an unusual sacrifice! I can imagine those people at that time when they were asked to go through I, I can imagine their being amazed and dumbfounded at what God has asked them to do. But the deliverance is His, and this is God’s way of saving His people. Well, its final meaning isn’t known until one thousand, five hundred years later. But God knew it, and what God does here has a stupendous meaning. And we’re going to take two sermons to delineate it. So let’s start, twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus:
And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month—
this month, this month of redemption, and deliverance, and salvation—
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
Now may I make two comments about that? One, we don’t begin to live until we have been redeemed out of bondage, until we have been saved. The life around the fleshpots in Egypt, the life down there in bondage, the life in the world, does not count, it doesn’t exist. It is to be dead, dead in trespasses and in sins, as Paul says [Ephesians 2:1]. That old life doesn’t count. It is wasted, it is gone. “This month”—this month of redemption and salvation—“shall be unto you the beginning of months, the first month of the year” [Exodus 12:2]. A man does not begin to live until he lives for God, until he’s been saved, until he’s born again [John 3:3]. That’s the beginning of his life. Haven’t you had this experience? A man will come up to you and say, “I am six years old.” You look at him and say, “Man, six years old? You are seventy-six years old! What do you mean?” And he replies, “I never found the Lord until six years ago, I’m just six years old.” It’s the beginning of life when you’re saved. All of those days before are lost in the land of Egypt and in bondage; they are gone, they are wasted. That’s why a man ought to be saved when he’s young, when he’s a child. He ought to begin to live when he is a youngster, his whole life for God; that’s the beginning of life.
Now may I make a second comment about it? How different that is, how opposite that is, from the equation and the evaluation of the world. For a man out there in the world he says, “Be a Christian? Oh! Why, I’d give up all of my happiness and all of the joy of my life! That’d be a terrible thing, for me to become a Christian. I wouldn’t be glad anymore, I wouldn’t have a good time anymore, I wouldn’t live anymore; it would be just like dying, to become a Christian.” That’s just the opposite, God says. God says the beginning of life, the beginning of gladness, the beginning of joy is when we are redeemed, when we’re coming out of the world, and out of slavery, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God [Romans 8:21]. This is the beginning of months to you [Exodus 12:2]. This is the first year, this is the birthday of the people of the Lord. One of these eloquent men said this is the birth of history itself. We don’t start to live. We don’t begin to live until we are redeemed, until we are saved, until we are born again [John 3:3]. That’s when gladness starts, joy starts, glory starts. All of that life out in the world before is lost. The beginning of life is when we begin with God [John 11:25].
So many of these young people have the persuasion that, “For me to be a Christian would be such a dull, drab, uninteresting life. It’s only they who are out in the world who have a good time.” Well, that’s just the opposite, just the opposite! You don’t have a good time until you have a “good time,” a time with the Lord; the beginning of months [Exodus 12:2], your birthday in Christ—that is when real living starts. Now, look again:
Speak ye unto the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
They were to observe the sacrifice of the Passover by family groups. Now that’s God’s way of doing it, by family groups. No man was to eat the sacrifice of the Passover by himself; they were to do it according to families. That is the way God built the nation, by families, and that’s the way God intended for His faith and His religion in the earth to be perpetuated. In the twelfth chapter and in the twenty-fourth verse:
Ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to they sons for ever.
And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as He hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshiped.
“It shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover” [Exodus 12:26-27]. God built His nation by families and God carried on His religion in that nation by families. “When your children shall say, What mean ye by this service?”
“Well, I don’t know! You go ask your Sunday school teacher,” or, “I don’t know, you go ask the pastor.” No, sir! God says these parents are to teach these children what they mean by this service.
Somebody will ask, “How is it that the religion of Judaism has lived through all of these centuries, no matter where the people have gone?” They’re like a Gulf Stream in a vast ocean. You’ll find that generation of the Jews continuing through the millenniums. Oh, the answer’s very simple and very easy! The secret of Judaism of the Jewish religion lies in its family organization; it is built by family groups, and the parents teach the children, and when those children become parents, they teach other children. That’s the way God intends for it to be. Incidentally, we have a Sunday school. Incidentally, we have a Training Union. Incidentally, we have study courses and Bible classes. The great purpose of God in propagating His religion was in these family groups—you teach that child!
Mother, daddy, you are to gather in a home, in a family group, for the sacrifice of the Passover. “And when your children say in time to come, What mean ye by this service? Thou shalt say…” [Exodus 12:26-27]. All these children are alike. They come down here to church and see us take the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], and they’ll ask you, “What does that mean?” And you teach them what the bread means and what the wine means. These children come here and see this baptismal service, and they say, “What does that mean?” And you teach them what the holy ordinance of baptism means [Romans 6:3-6]. They come down here to these preaching hours and they hear many, many things from the Book. They will ask you about these things and about these people; you sit down and teach them, and talk to them, and read to them out of the Bible, and explain to them. That is the way God meant for His religion to be propagated—by family groups, these parents teaching these children.
Now I do not know of a finer development that we have here in this church than the habit of our people bringing their children to the church services. I see them all over this audience especially at this 8:15 hour. Now I know the things you go through; they wiggle and squirm. They move around and can’t be still; they draw pictures and write on paper, and they yawn and they go to sleep. And it looks as though they don’t listen, and don’t learn, and don’t get anything out of it. You just don’t realize, you don’t realize, these children get more out of it than you are cognizant of. And down the line, there will be decisions made and there will be things remembered that will amaze you! There are impressions on their little minds they got out of these services when you thought they were just drawing pictures or squirming around, making noise, bothering you and bothering the neighbor. God meant for these children to be brought up in the love, and admonition, and teaching of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. And that is the task God has given to the parents; it’s your job. Incidentally, the Sunday school teacher teaches, I say. And incidentally, we have Bible classes; but God built His religion around family groups.
Now one other comment, and the blood that was caught in the basin, “The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. The Passover, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Now can’t you imagine this? Some family could say, “My lintels are so clean and so washed, and my door posts are so spotless, look, look! And come inside the house, our lives are so pure, and our deeds are so good, and our home is so worthy, come and look!” But God says, “When I see the blood, when I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. He never said, “When I measure you up to see how good you are. When I weigh you in the balance and see how much you measure out.” He never said that. It isn’t by our goodness, not by works of righteousness which we have done [Titus 3:5]. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” [Exodus 12:13]. We are saved by the blood of Christ, by the blood of the Passover Lamb [1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. However a man may plead his own cause, however a man may stand on his own righteousness, however clean the lintel, and however washed the door post, we’re saved under the blood, under the blood, publicly displayed [Exodus 12:22].
“Well, I’m a believer, Lord, but I’m not a public believer.”
“I’m a Christian, Lord, but I’ve never avowed it.”
“I’m a Christian, Lord, but I haven’t been baptized, and I haven’t joined the church.”
“I’m a secret disciple, Lord.”
No, publicly on the lintel and on the door posts, where everybody can see, where, when they pass by they look at it, that is a Christian home [Exodus 12:7, 13]. This is a Christian family, openly, publicly, unashamedly, according to the Word of Jesus. “If thou shalt confess Me before men, I will confess thee before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32]. According to the preaching of the word of the great apostle:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
[Romans 10:9, 10]
Open, publicly, on the lintels, on the door posts where every body could see; unashamed, unreserved, committed, openly avowed [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. This is a household of God. This is a family of Christ. We are a people of the Lord. God help us to be thus unashamed, unafraid, openly avowed; God’s children.
While we sing our hymn, somebody this morning publicly to give his life to God [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody this morning to put his life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; while we sing, would you come and stand by me? One somebody you, or a family you, while we make this appeal, while we sing this song, would you come? Confessing your faith in the Lord or putting your life in the church; while we sing this song, would you make it now? While all of us stand and sing.
THE NIGHT OF PASSOVER
Exodus 11, 12
I. Birthday of God’s people
1. Change of calendar
2. Previous life a blank
3. Salvation deliverance is opposite of what man thinks it is
II. Grouped according to families
1. Passover eaten in family groups not to be eaten alone
2. God built the nation on family groups
3. Parents to teach children
III. Open act of faith – shared redemption