The Birthday of the People of God
April 12th, 1979 @ 12:00 PM
THE BIRTHDAY OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-12-79 12:00 p.m.
The theme, as Charles Bristow said, is "Moses in the Land of Egypt," against the background of Israel and Egypt hammering out, hopefully, a Mid-East peace treaty. And the subject Monday was The Great Renunciation; on Tuesday, In a Flame of Fire; Wednesday, yesterday, The Great Non-Compromiser; Friday, tomorrow, The Blood of the Passover Lamb; and today, The Birthday of the People of God.
Yesterday, going through these plagues [Exodus 7:14-12:30], each one of which was thrust at the very heart of one of the imposter gods, and the last one was a confrontation with the prince of all their gods, Ra, the god of the sun. And you will find his name in so many of the names of the Egyptians, like pharaoh. So the ninth plague was against the sun god Ra [Exodus 10:21-29]. And the land for three days, three nights, was plunged into impenetrable darkness [Exodus 10:3]. The Book calls it "darkness which could be felt" [Exodus 10:21]. You could cut it with a knife. And after Pharaoh’s last compromise, following that ninth plague, why, his heart was hardened, and he would not let God’s people go [Exodus 10:27]. Now we pick up: "And Pharaoh said unto Moses, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in the day that thou seest my face thou shalt die." And Moses said, "Fine. Excellent! Thou hast spoken well. I will see thy face again no more" [Exodus 10:28-29]. Then Moses added, he said this to Pharaoh,
Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born in your house, you that sitteth on the throne, to the first-born of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and the first-born of all of the beasts. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall it be any more. And that you may know that God puts a difference between the Egyptians and Israel, there shall not,
and then he quotes a proverb –
there shall not a dog move its tongue against man or beast in the land of Goshen. And all these servants shall come down unto me, and bow themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that we will go out.
"People are going to beg us to leave. You say no; the whole nation will bow down saying, Please, go! And he went out again from Pharaoh in a great anger" [Exodus 11:8]. And that is typical of Moses: "in a great anger." Then there is a lull after that ninth plague, before the tenth and the last one, which is the death of the firstborn in all the land of Egypt [Exodus 11:1-12:30]. And this brings us to the twelfth chapter, which I have entitled The Birthday of the People of God.
And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
This month shall be unto thee the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
Speak unto all 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, maybe just one of you, 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. . .
And the lamb shall be slain.
And you will take the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door [post], upon the lintel of the house,
And 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,
thus the name Passover,
And the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever,
And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say, What mean ye by this service?
That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, when He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And then the people bowed down their heads and worshipped before the Lord.
[Exodus 12:13-14, 26-27]
The birthday of the people of God: first, it is a new beginning. "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" [Exodus 12:2]. In other words, all the days and all the years, four hundred thirty, all of the days they spent in slavery and in Egyptian bondage are blotted out, they are lost. And the new beginning is a new life, a new day, a new promise, a new glory, a new pilgrimage, a new home. Thus it is with us. All of the days that we have spent in the service of the world, or of the devil, or of self, all the things to which we have given our life that pertain to this earth, lost, blotted out. Our new life is the new day when we begin with Christ; the rest is lost forever.
That is so opposite to what the world thinks. They say to us, "If I turn aside from the world, and if I give my life to Christ, think of all the fun I will miss; think of the joy that I will miss; think of the happiness I will give up; just think of all of the good things that I’ll never experience or enjoy." That’s what the devil says, and there never has been a more deceptive introduction to what Satan wants us to do in this earth than that. As though coming out of Egypt, coming out of slavery, coming out of bondage, coming out of the darkness of this world is a loss. It is the opposite; our beginning in Christ is the beginning of a real life, a genuine life. The rest is lost, blotted out. Our new life begins when we begin with God. "This month shall be the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" [Exodus 12:2].
We don’t know what gladness is, happiness is, joy is, triumph is, until we enter this new life with Christ. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" [John 10:10]. I wish I had time to expatiate upon the detail of that. When a man gives his life to Christ, he comes out of an indescribable bondage; no dark hangovers, no drunkenness, no venereal disease, no guilty oppressive remembrances. But when a man lives with the Lord God, his life is filled with hope, and gladness, and light, and joy, and victory, and every day is a glorious challenge, and the Lord blesses him and accompanies him and walks by his side. It’s a beginning of a new day. "This month shall be the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" [Exodus 12:2]. The birthday of the people of God, when we give our lives to Christ, is the beginning of a new, wonderful, triumphant, and glorious life.
Second, the next verse, it is by families:
Speak ye unto all 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 a house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him go to his neighbor, the one next to his house, and according to the number of souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
Isn’t that a strange thing, how God is? I don’t know what it is, but God doesn’t like solitariness. He doesn’t like aloneness. He doesn’t like oneness. That’s a strange thing. When the Lord God had made the vast firmament above us, and created the world beneath us, He said, "You know I am lonesome. These mountains cannot talk to Me, and these spheres cannot think My thoughts. I am going to create a man who can walk with Me, and talk with Me, and think My thoughts after Me" [Genesis 1:26]. And the man was created for fellowship with God. And when the Lord God saw the man living alone, He said, "That is not good [Genesis 2:18]. Look at all of these animals around him. And Adam named them all [Genesis 2:19-20]. But there was not one meet, a companion, think his thoughts, live his life, share every dream in his heart [Genesis 2:20]. And God made a helpmate, meet, equal, for Adam" [Genesis 2:21-22]. God doesn’t like loneliness, aloneness. And it’s a strange thing in all of the revelation of what God does for us, always it is social. Now you look at this: a man, a solitary man is not to observe the feast; but he is to do it in a family group [Exodus 12:3-4]. And if he’s by himself and doesn’t have a family, he’s to join himself to a family. God likes sociality, congenialness, gathering together, the assembly; He just does. And God built His world upon family groups. And God built His nation by family units. And as long as that family is strong, the nation is strong. When the family dissolves, the nation dissolves.
And that same social aspect of how God works with his people is throughout every part of His revelation. God doesn’t intend for his Christian people to be solitary or alone. He created for them what the Bible calls a koinonia, sometimes it’s translated "a communion" [1 Corinthians 10:16], sometimes it’s translated "a fellowship" [1 Corinthians 1:9]; but it refers to the family of God. And when one is born into the kingdom of God, he is born into the family of God [John 1:12-13]. There is no such thing as a man being a child of God out by himself. Always he is initiated into, baptized into the assembly of the Lord, the body of Christ, the koinonia, the fellowship of the blessed Jesus [1 Corinthians 12:13]. When a man says, "I worship God out there on a hill by myself," he is self deceived; for the first thing God does to a man who is converted and belongs to Him is He puts him in a family. Just as He does a babe: you ever seen a babe born out there on a hill by itself? Ever see a little babe grow up out there on a hill by itself? God doesn’t do that. God puts that little babe in a mother’s womb, bathed by mother’s blood, born in the circle of the home. That’s God. And He does no less with those who are born into the new life and the new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. He puts us in the family of the Lord, in the assembly of the saints, in the household of the redeemed [Hebrews 12:22-23].
And may I take a moment to follow that through to its ultimate? What is the ultimate heaven? The Book says it is a great city, the holy and New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-2]. And in that city, God has built a home for us [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:3]. The ideal, the perfect ideal of God for His people is, always, social; always together, in a great and beautiful city. And may I take the obverse? Whenever a man says to you, "You know, when I get down there in hell, I won’t be by myself. There’ll be a whole lot of others in damnation with me"; again, he is self-deceived. When a man falls into hell, he falls into it by himself. There’ll be nobody with him. He’ll be cast out into outer darkness. And the Bible calls that the abyss. And I just suppose, when the soul is separated in damnation from God, it falls forever and forever in the illimitable darkness of the infinitude that is all immeasurably around us. Whenever a man, spurning the overtures of grace says, "Well, I’ll be down there, and we’ll play poker together, and we get drunk together, and we’ll whoremonger together, and we’ll just have the biggest time down there in hell you ever heard of in your life," he’s self deceived. He’ll be by himself. And he’s by himself forever and ever in outer darkness. For God’s people are always together; but damned people are always alone. Isn’t that a strange thing, how God is?
So He puts His people together. And when you’re a child of God, that’s the first thing you’ll do. Where is somebody who loves the Lord? Where’s a prayer meeting? Where’s a church house? Where’s an assembly of the saints? Where’s the preaching of the gospel? Where’s the singing of the hymns of Zion? Where do we bow in prayer?
Last, the birthday of the people of God: not only a new beginning [Exodus 12:2]; not only in families [Exodus 12:4]; but by blood. "Take this lamb and its blood; sprinkle it on the lintel, on the top, and on either side, on the doorposts, in the form of a cross [Exodus 12:7]. And it will be, when the death angel passes over, when he sees the blood he will spare this house and all who are under the blood" [Exodus 12:23]. So a man says, "Dear Lord, look, look, look at my house. Look at those lintels, how clean they are. And look at those doorposts, whitewashed. Lord, no judgment could come upon this house. Look how pure and how fine and how decent and how respectable. Look, Lord, at the worth and the merit of my life." Again, "Look how clean that lintel is, and look how whitewashed those doorposts are." Isn’t that a strange self-deception? The farther a man gets from God, the better he appears to himself. "Look, Lord, look at my righteousness. Look at my merit, look at my good, look at the worth of my life, look what things I have done right." Strange thing: the nearer a man gets to God, the more unworthy he feels, until finally in the holy white presence of the Almighty he bows himself and cries, saying, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner" [Luke 18:13]. Our works in His sight, the Book says, "are as filthy rags" [Isaiah 64:6]. And I’ll not be saved by the cleanliness of my lintel, or by the whitewashing of the doorposts. I’m saved by the blood of the Crucified One! [1 Peter 1:18-19].
Our finest theology is in our hymns. Look at this:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed
Be for sin a double cure,
saved from wrath –
the death angel –
And make me pure
Could my tears forever flow?
Could my zeal no languor know?
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone
In my hands no price I bring – no merit, no worth,
Simply to Thy cross I cling
[adapted from "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me," Augustus M. Toplady.]
"And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:13].
"So Lord, sitting at Thy dear feet, teach us the wonder and the wisdom of Thy ways. And loving Thee, and loving one another, may God join us to Christ and to each other in this life, and someday, Master, in that beautiful city of God, together may we sing, and praise, and shout, and bow down, and love Thee, and worship Thee world without end, Amen. Amen."
OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
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