Summary: God’s command to remember the Passover Feast has significant applications for observing the Lord’s supper today.
STRENTH FOR THE DESERT
Today we begin the first sermon from the fourth book of the Bible—Numbers. Numbers has 36 chapters and is divided into six major sections. We plan to develop one message from each section.
The first section of Numbers (1-10:10) is filled with the phrase "The Lord spoke to Moses", just as was true in Leviticus. The very first words of the book of Numbers begins, "The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai…Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites…." That’s how the book of Numbers got its name. The phrase The Lord spoke to Moses occurs 23 times alone in the first section. The book of Numbers is important because God spoke, and when God speaks we need to perk up our ears and pay attention. What a blessing that God’s words have been preserved for us so that God can speak again to us through His recorded word.
Moses was an excellent leader. He was a man who kept his ears open to God. That meant he had to live an obedient life and take time to listen to God. As leaders and ministers today, there is nothing more important than taking time to hear God so that the people will be instructed. God’s message was never meant for Moses alone but so that Moses could pass on to the people how to be holy! The same is true today.
In the first nine chapters we read about the ideal congregation. Listen to these words: “The Israelites did so, they did just as the LORD commanded Moses.” (1:54). "The Israelites did just as the LORD had commanded Moses." (2:34), "According to the commandment of the LORD through Moses…thus they were enrolled by him, as the LORD commanded Moses." (4:49) and "Just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so the Israelites did." (9:5). In response to the people’s obedience, God spoke a powerful blessing upon them 6:24-26. We still use this blessing as a benediction today.
The first leg of the congregation’s journey in the desert was pretty easy. They seemed energized and willing to listen to Moses. But God in his infinite wisdom knows we need testing experiences to prepare us for heaven even as the Israelites needed testing experiences to prepare them to receive the land he was going to give to them. (Read Deuteronomy 8:2-7 )
The Israelites experience reminds me kids of what you were told last week at your Easter performance practice. Diane told you that right now at the beginning you are excited. Practice seems fun and exciting but there will be practices when you think you can’t get the routines; it will seem too hard and you will want to quit. But she told you to stick with it. She referred to the learning curve that will go down but it will come back up again and then all that you’ve learned will come together and you’ll have a great accomplishment in the end.
The Israelites were tested in the desert and their curve went way down but God was always at work as their instructor lovingly trying to help them to trust him for the journey even as He wants to help us travel through our desert experiences without petering out or giving up or turning against Him. God says to us today, "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power." (Eph 6:10)
Today we will examine one of the commands God gave Moses in the desert to strengthen the travelers and then see how that same command is given to us in the New Testament.
The text begins (9:1-4) "The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: Let the Israelites keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its regulations you shall keep it. So Moses told the Israelites that they should keep the Passover." Did you notice that four times God commanded, “You shall keep the Passover?” In other words, You shall hold a Love Feast on the prescribed day of the month. Why was holding the Passover remembrance so important to God and why was it so important for the people to obey his command?
In order to answer those questions we need to go back to Exodus 12 where God first gave his detailed instructions about how they were to prepare to leave Egypt just before he was going to free them in a miraculous way. Each family was to take an unblemished lamb from their flock and slaughter it for the forgiveness of their sins and then they were to roast the mean and eat it. But most important, (Ex. 12:7) "They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it." Then God said 12:13 "The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." In the same chapter God said to the people: