Moses had approached the Pharaoh and asked that the children of Israel be set free and allowed to leave the land of Egypt for the land God had promised them. The Pharaoh was not impressed. He responded by increasing their workload and treating them worse than ever. The children of Israel, smarting under the whip of the Egyptian slave masters, blamed Moses for their problems and Moses, understandingly, was discouraged by the results.
God then speaks to Moses some of the most encouraging words in the entire Bible. “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an out stretched arm and with great acts of judgment, and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Exodus 6:6-7
God reminds Moses that the Covenant promise made to Abraham is going to be fulfilled and the children of Israel are going to be set free. There are four major promises in these verses that would be remembered and commemorated wherever the Passover took place. The first promise was, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” The children of Israel did not have to deliver themselves from bondage; it was God who would bring them out of Egypt.
The second promise was, “I will deliver you from their bondage.” Notice, once again it is God who frees from slavery. Under the Lordship of God His people would no longer be slaves but free men and women. God is not only going to lead the Israelites out of Egypt but He is going to give them a newfound freedom.
The third promise was, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” The Israelites were not going to just be able to walk away from the most powerful nation on earth. There was going to be a cost to obtain their freedom. But, it was God who would fight those battles and bring judgment upon the Egyptians who opposed God’s plans for His people. Once again it’s important for us to remember that the redemption of Israel was God’s doing and the people were the recipients of this blessing.
The fourth promise was the promise of a renewed relationship between God and His people. “I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Here is God’s great promise to not abandon His people or forsake them but to lead and guide them in such a way that they will know that He is the God who delivers His people from slavery.
All four of these promises are based upon God’s initiative and actions. The children of Israel were the recipients of the blessings. These promises became so important to the Israelites that they were encompassed into their Passover celebration, which commemorates their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt by the hand of God. There were four points in which the presider got up holding a glass of wine and explained the meaning of the Passover. Each time the presider stood and presented the cup it would correspond to the four promises in Exodus 6:6-7 and was introduced at a particular time in the celebration.
The third cup corresponding to the third promise took place as the meal was almost finished. The presider would use the words of Deuteronomy 26 to bless the lamb, herbs and bread. Over the bread for example he would say, “This is the bread of our affliction, which our fathers ate in the wilderness.” It’s important for us to remember that the third cup corresponded with the third promise, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”
Jesus is about to die the next day on Calvary’s cross with His arms outstretched. The eve of that execution however finds Him eating the Passover meal with His disciples. “While they were eating Jesus took bread gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take it this is my body.’ Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ He said to them.” Mark 14:22-24
When Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it He declared, “This is my body.” Generations after generations of Israelites had enacted the breaking of the bread in remembrance of delivery from Egypt but now Jesus, in these four simple words, declared I am the new Exodus, the Savior of all people who trust in me for their redemption. Through Jesus we are lifted out of bondage and slavery to sin and given in its place the gift of eternal life. The cost to God is astronomical because it cost Him His Son, the true Passover lamb that takes away the sins of the world, who would die an agonizing death as our substitute on Calvary’s cross.
Just as the children of Israel were the recipients of all that God did in Egypt to bring about their freedom, so we are all the recipients of God’s gift of redemption when we accept freely His grace. Christians should never take the Lord’s Supper lightly. How often we simply tack it on to the end of the church service, rush through it and get it over with so we can all go home to our noon hour meal.
When Jesus blessed the wine He was in fact raising the third cup of the Passover festival. He was declaring that we no longer look back at how God delivers His people, but enter into the experience itself. He is the Redeemer and Saviour of all who believe in His name. And when we eat of the broken bread and drink of the wine we are acknowledging that we saved by the grace of God who loves us unconditionally.
* Please remember in prayer those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians.