SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 5 March 2023
Sermon Text: Exodus 4:18-31
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#7)
I. Living fatherless
II. Father’s firstborn son
III. Father’s love for the firstborn son
IV. Father’s deliverance of the firstborn son
While we wholeheartedly believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word, it’s undeniable that some OT custom seem strange to our ears. One of those strange things is ‘birthright.’ According to this OT birthright, the firstborn son inherits a double share of his father’s property. Moreover, the OT birthright used to grant the firstborn son double portion of his father’s blessing. Occasionally, however, this double portion was turned to be a hundred percent of the blessing as appeared in the case of Isaac with Jacob. As most of you know the story well, Isaac the father of the twins – that is, Esau and Jacob – wanted to bless his firstborn, Esau. But Jacob the younger one of the twins snatched the place of his twin brother and received his father’s blessings. When Esau came to his father Isaac and was ready to receive blessings, Isaac trembled because there was no blessing left for Esau.
Although the OT birthright custom for the firstborn son sounds strange to our ears, this custom carries with it an important and deep truth of God’s salvation. As the birthright was of the firstborn sons in the OT, the right to inherit God’s eternal kingdom is of God’s children. In a word, all true Christians who worship God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ are God’s firstborns, and to them, to us, all blessings of God belong.
Today’s text passage is one of the important parts of the OT that teach this truth of God’s redemption or deliverance of His firstborns from their bondage to sin. So, I want you to listen to this message and know God’s deliverance of His firstborn children from sin.
I. LIVING FATHERLESS
First of all, I want to start with Moses and his life. His birthfather’s name was Amram and Jochebed was his birthmother. But his life in Egypt up to forty years of age was like that of a fatherless. What I mean is that he could not call his birthfather father, nor his birthmother mother. But someone else was his father or at least guardian in the Egyptian palace. The Pharaoh’s daughter who had adopted him became his mother. So, Moses was fatherless in Egypt.
In fact, Moses’ fatherless life represents the situation of Israel in Egypt. Their life in Egypt was like that of a fatherless. Being slaves, they were exploited and scorned and ill-treated. The God who had a covenant relationship with them was their Father, but Israel was under the power and authority of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.
Surprisingly, this is the exact portrait of the people in this world, the exact description of all who reject their Creator God and His Son, the only Saviour Jesus Christ, but bow to all false gods of the world. As they do, they are exploited, ill-treated as slaves to the Prince of this world, that is, Satan. But sadly, their eyes do not see it, nor do their minds understand their desperate situation. How can I say they’re exploited by Satan? Since no one satisfies with what he/she has gained, collected or earned in the world. The more one has, the bitter his life tastes; the higher one moves, the emptier her soul finds. People strive to reach their goals and when anyone finally thinks he touches its foot, the goal has already been moved farther away. In this way, there’s no satisfaction in the lives of people. Isn’t it clear evidence of exploitation? Isn’t that, in other words, a distinctive description of enslavement?
So, like Moses’ in his first forty years in Egypt, everyone who rejects God, everyone who rejects Jesus Christ, God’s Son, lives as a fatherless.
II. FATHER’S FIRSTBORN SON
But all who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and based on this faith, worship God are children of God. God is their Father. And every child of God has the birthright granted by the Father. So, God’s child inherits the Father’s kingdom and his/her share is the Father’s full blessing for now and eternity. This birthright gives each child of God complete satisfaction.
To explain this, God chose the OT Israel as the nation of His firstborn son. That’s what God means when He says in v. 22 of today’s text passage, “Israel is My firstborn son.” Here, ‘the firstborn son’ means a son who has full birthright.
Let me assure you, however, that Israel was not a special group of people. They became God’s firstborn son nation not because they deserved that title and blessing but because God graciously chose them to be. Consider Abraham, their ancestor. He did not deserve to hear God’s call. In fact, he deserved the opposite, God’s punishment, being an idol maker like all others in his family. So, calling him and making his descendants as the nation of God’s ‘firstborn son’ was purely God’s gracious choice according to His all-knowing, all-powerful and sovereign will.
The same is exactly true with all believers of the God of the Bible. God chose each of us and He visits us to make us His children. Choosing and visiting and making each of us His children, He gives us full birthright – and this is the meaning of God’s ‘firstborn son.’
When we hear or talk about God’s ‘firstborn son,’ this title immediately reminds us of Jesus Christ because the Bible points Him as God’s ‘firstborn.’ When God speaks of Jesus as His ‘firstborn,’ He means Jesus’ pre-eminence before all of God’s creation rather than being created or born first chronologically. Jesus’ being ‘firstborn’ of the Father also means His glory and authority as the Head and Lord of all who belong to Him. So the Bible teaches us that all things were created in and through and for Jesus Christ.
Take this truth to your heart that, by believing in Jesus, the Son of God, you and I are God’s firstborn sons. Being God’s firstborn children, you and I have full birthright, full inheritance of the Father’s kingdom!
III. FATHER’S LOVE FOR THE FIRSTBORN SON
What is, then, the benefit of being God’s children? Is it like a will document you’ve received many years ago from the lawyer of a rich uncle of yours but its execution seems to be so far-off that you don’t really pay much attention to? Is this the benefit of being God’s firstborn sons with full birthright? The answer is a big ‘No!’
The benefit of being God’s firstborn sons is this that God pays His full and continuous attention to His children. God’s love, God’s concern and care for His beloved is immeasurable, incalculable, my fellow Christians! King David of the OT experienced this and, realising its immeasurable benefit, said this in Ps. 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry.” Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, agrees and describes the benefit and implication of God’s love in Rom. 8:38-39, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What a graphic portrait of God’s unbreakable, uninterruptable attention toward us, His firstborn sons! So, His constant care and love for us is the benefit of being God’s firstborn sons.
Our text passage is saturated with this love of the Father and the same is with your life and mine. Let’s see how carefully God has guided and loved Moses. When Moses arrived the land of Midianites forty years ago, he was totally alone, broken-hearted by being rejected by both Egyptians and Israelites. But God had a plan for him in the wilderness – that is, to be received into a family. More importantly, God’s plan for him was to meet his eternal Heavenly Father! Isn’t it amazing? God also trained him there for the next forty years how to be humble yet strong shepherd of a flock – so far, a flock of animals, but soon, a flock of God’s people. Moreover, his training was in the region of wilderness through which Israel would soon walk and rest and pass through for the next forty years. Nothing was accidental; nothing was purposeless – but all were excellently refined and distinctively purposed in God’s love! What it says to us is that the same God loves you and me, and guides our paths in the same manner He did for Moses.
Let me add a few more details of what God did in His love for His beloved. When Moses is ready to leave the land of the Midianites to Egypt, his once broken heart is mended and filled with peace as God has told him that all those who were seeking his life are dead now. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, adds his blessing of peace to his path. Then, please turn your eyes to Aaron, Moses’ older brother, and consider what happened to him. He remained in Egypt as a slave. But somehow he has left Egypt to meet Moses. Aaron could’ve started his journey about the same time Moses met God on Mt Horeb or earlier, considering the distance he needed to travel. That means, God had visited Aaron in a way we’re not told, and guided him to leave Egypt to search for his long-lost brother. It must’ve been a difficult and dangerous task because Aaron was still a slave in Egypt and, leaving his post would’ve meant an unimaginable risk. Yet, God has led him out of Egypt to meet Moses in the wilderness! God’s eyes are always upon His beloved, His firstborn sons, and His hands surround us always.
This is what God means when He said to Moses in Ex. 3:7 and following, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people … and have heard their cry …. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them … and to bring them out … to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Jesus sums this up in the famous NT verse, saying, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Rejoicing in this love, Paul proclaims in Rom. 8:39, in the words we’ve already heard earlier, “[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”!
IV. FATHER’S DELIVERANCE OF THE FIRSTBORN SON
This leads us to our last point for today, that is, why God delivers Israel, His firstborn son, from the hands of Pharaoh? Is it because God doesn’t like His son to be under someone else’s house or authority? I guess, yes, as God requires of His people to know that He alone is their God – in another word, their Heavenly Father. But that’s not a full and complete answer. The answer is that God delivers Israel, His firstborn son, to serve his one and true Father alone! Or, to worship Him alone. The Hebrew word used here can be rendered into either serve or worship. In fact, serving God is worshiping Him and worshiping Him is serving Him.
Listen to God, saying this in v. 23, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.” This is the grand theme of Exodus – in fact, this is the grand theme of the entire Bible, both the Old and NTs. Delivering God’s firstborn sons from their bondage to sin is to release them from bowing to false gods and to enable them to worship their one and true God and Father. It is to free them from being exploited by the taskmaster of this world and to live as free and blessed children in their one and true Father’s house.
In fact, to teach this to us and all children of God in all generations, God delivered Israel out from the land of Egypt and from the hands of Pharaoh. You and I are freed to serve and worship our Heavenly Father. If this is the purpose of our deliverance, our gathering together to worship God is no longer a burden but great joy; if this is why God delivered us from our slavery to sin, if this is why Jesus the Son shed His precious blood on the cross, you and I ought to give thanks to the Lord always and treasure our freedom. If serving God is our call, we must carry it out in our life!
My friends, my brothers and sisters who share the same birthright in Christ Jesus, we’re the firstborn sons, blessed for eternity. So, the challenge for us is to not live fatherless any longer. Do not miss or try to go back to our earlier fatherless life because you and I are no longer fatherless! We are God’s children with full birthright! So, let us live as the firstborns of the Father – show the world that we’re not only free but also blessed eternally and abundantly in our God and Father! ***